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Feb 21, 2011

When a DUI Becomes a Felony Offense

A first offense may not sound like a big deal, but if repeated it can quickly avalanche into a huge crisis that you deal with for the rest of your life. A second offense sounds more serious than the first, to be sure, but still not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, right? This is wrong! After that second conviction, most states move the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony, meaning longer incarceration, additional loss of driving privileges, fewer sentencing alternatives, and so on.

Longer Incarceration

For a first time offender, in most cases, the maximum you will receive for a sentence of incarceration is thirty days, and in many situations, the judge will order probation or community service in lieu of jail time. When it comes to a third offense, the jail time is nine times as long in the state of Maine, nine months and one day, and in most cases this is mandatory jail time.

Additional Loss of Driving Privileges

No adult with a vehicle likes to be told that they are not allowed to drive, and those with hectic school, work, and social schedules like it even less. Keep in mind that anyone with a third DUI conviction within a 10-year time frame faces a minimum of six years’ loss of driving privileges. This is a huge difference from what a first time offender faces, which is a mere six months’ sentence.

Fewer Sentencing Alternatives

First—and sometimes second—offenses often give the courts a good number of sentencing alternatives so that the offender faces little or no jail time. Third offenses severely limit the number of alternatives that the court has to offer. Some are eliminated altogether, while others are severely restricted in how, when, and under what conditions they can be offered to the offender.

Ignition Interlock Devices

Although considered an alternative to losing your driving rights after three years, ignition interlock devices are also described as personal breathalyzer machines. You are forced to blow into the machine before it can be started, and if you fail the test you cannot start the car. At random intervals, you will be required to pass the test again, and if it is failed at any time, a very embarrassing alarm will sound and you are forced to pull over.



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