Driving drunk in the US is an offense that can have serious consequences for you, your passengers, and those in any other vehicle that might be involved if you have an accident.

While it’s clear you should avoid driving after drinking, if you are involved in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case, it can also have wide-ranging effects on your health, relationships, work, social life, and finances.

What happens if I’m caught drunk driving?

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Presuming there hasn’t been an accident, and there are no injuries, getting caught drunk driving will typically involve a police officer suspecting you’re driving erratically and pulling you over for a breathalyzer test. Should you fail this test, you will be arrested and taken to the nearest police station or jail to have your photograph taken and for fingerprinting.

If this is your first time being apprehended by the police, even the above process can prove to be a fairly traumatic experience. In some states, you will be released on bail soon after; however, in other states, drink driving carries a mandatory custodial sentence (normally one or two days) which you’ll spend at the police station or jail. This, too, can be traumatic and will likely have consequences for your overall mental health.

You should also note that you will likely have to spend a greater time in jail if this isn’t your first charge and you have repeatedly offended.

The interim between being caught and appearing in court

Once you’ve been caught drink driving, you need to seek legal advice and representation quickly. You must have an attorney on-side to defend you and try to minimize any punishment you might receive. Therefore, as soon as possible after your charge, you should seek the help of a company like www.thehardylawfirm.com that is skilled and experienced in DUI charges.

Appearing in court

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Either at the time of your arrest – or very soon after – you will receive a date and time to appear in court. But, you should note, it can be very humiliating and very embarrassing to attend court on a charge that is largely frowned upon by society as a whole – plus one that could have been entirely avoided – so you should prepare for the potential impact on your mental health.

Your attorney will advise you if he feels you should plead guilty or not guilty. However, you should also be aware that pleading not guilty will likely result in dashcam video footage of you failing the sobriety test being shown in court. Also, remember there are normally court reporters, so it’s quite likely details of your case will appear in local newspapers.

Loss of driving privileges

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Being caught DUI in all states will result in a loss of driving privileges for at least a short period. Even if you manage to pass the requirements for leniency, such as needing your car for work or to take the kids to school, your right to drive will be massively reduced.

You should also be aware that if you failed to take the breathalyzer test when you were first caught or refused to take the sobriety test or give a blood sample, your license would be automatically revoked.

As well as the shame experienced from losing a driving license, not being able to drive could see you placing an extra burden on family or friends to get you around – just another of the different consequences of a DUI charge.


If you’re lucky enough to avoid serving jail time, you will still likely be put under probation for a time that will be determined by your sentencing judge (another reason why it’s so important you have legal representation at your trial). Probation normally involves paying a monthly fee – however, all cases vary. Failure to adhere to the terms of your probation will likely lead to you spending time in jail.


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Being found guilty of a DUI charge will almost always carry a fine – again determined by the presiding judge plus any other additional contributing factors that increase the seriousness of your crime.

For example, if you hit a pedestrian while under the influence, you should expect a far greater fine than if you were just pulled over. The same applies to damage to property, injuring passengers, damage to other cars, etc.

Again, this is another reason you need to ensure you have an attorney, as only they will be able to work in your defense to try and lower penalties and fines.

Ongoing problems with being found guilty of a DUI charge

Aside from the mental issues caused by the embarrassment and shame of being caught driving under the influence, there are many other complications you may face as a result of being charged, including:

  • Alcohol/drug education:

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Pretty much all states will require you to attend alcohol therapy classes to assess your alcohol use. You will be evaluated to see if you have an alcohol dependency or disorder and could end up being forced to undergo alcohol treatment.

  • Increase in insurance premiums:

You will find being charged with a DUI will increase your auto insurance cost. Depending on the provider, this could be substantial (sometimes two or three times more expensive). Normally, you will be required to pay these higher premiums for three years.

  • The use of interlock devices:

Increasing numbers of states are requiring DUI offenders to fit costly interlocking devices to their vehicles to prevent further offenses. An interlock device requires the driver to pass an alcohol test before starting the vehicle.

The mental impact of a DUI charge

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Even if you were lucky enough to escape injury, you might still suffer problems with PTSD if you’re involved in a crash. Also, the shame of a DUI charge can have severe mental implications as friends and family may take a bleak view of your offense.

Moreover, those charged with a DUI are often found to have been suffering from other problems like depression or bipolar disorder that you will also need to address. In many DUI cases, the offense itself may have been sparked by far deeper issues that will need to be fixed if you’re to make a full recovery.