What Happens When You Get A DUI Charge? 

DUI or driving under the influence means driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is a criminal offense in every state across the United States.

Facing such a charge can be a challenging and confusing time for you. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, it can affect your personal relationships, finances, employment, and driving freedom.  

While this can be a trying time, knowing what to expect and preparing for future outcomes can make it easier to accept. Doing so can help you plan how to mitigate the impact on your family. 

To help you out, here’s a guide on what happens when you get a DUI charge.  

Pullover And Arrest

A typical DUI charge starts with an officer pulling you over during a routine traffic check or if they notice signs of reckless or suspicious driving. An officer can then choose to conduct a field test or breathalyzer test if you still show suspicions of drunk driving.

If you’re too impaired to complete the field or breathalyzer test or if the test shows your intoxication level is above the legal limit, you will be arrested and detained.  

The officers’ observations and your test indications will be filed in a police report which will be used in the case against you. Thus, it’s essential to choose an expert when hiring a DUI lawyer to get the best chance of defense against the filed case and evidence.

Depending on your state, you’ll either stay in detention until you can see a judge or be released home if someone posts your bail.     


After your arrest, you’ll be given a summons on when to appear in court as a defendant for your driving under the influence or DUI charge. During the court proceedings, you will answer a judge and make a plea with the assistance of your lawyer.  

Most cases end here, but if the proceedings are contentious, the case may be taken to trial. Keep in mind that during the ‘not guilty’ pleas, the evidence of your field test can be used against you. This is normally taken from your arresting officer’s bodycam or dashcam video. 

If your lawyer succeeds in pleading your case, your charges will be dismissed, and you will have avoided sentencing and a DUI charge on your legal record. However, if you’re found guilty, the judge will decide the penalties you’ll face.  


The penalties for a DUI charge can be minor or severe depending on your case. Other factors, such as previous convictions, will also be considered. For instance, if no harm was caused and this is your first offense, you might get off with a misdemeanor.

It can include serving jail time for a few days, paying a fine, and your driver’s license being revoked for a few months.  

The more severe penalties can see you sentenced to up to a year in jail, multiple years of probation, mandatory community service hours, or pay a heavier fine of thousands of dollars.

Felony convictions or ones with additional charges such as drunk driving that caused injuries, fatalities, or property damage can carry longer jail terms of multiple years up to a decade. The court may also order you to compensate the victim’s family or the owner of the damaged property.   

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Getting Your License Back

In most cases, if you want your driver’s license returned after sentencing or dismissal, you’ll have to undergo a court-ordered alcohol evaluation. This is an educational program meant to assess the role that alcohol plays in your life and whether you might have an alcohol use disorder.    

These results will determine whether you can get your license back with driving privileges being returned gradually or not. In the latter case, you’ll have to enroll in a rehabilitative alcohol treatment plan or substance abuse course and keep going for assessments until you’re granted approval.   

Once you’ve been charged for a DUI and eventually get your license back, you’ll likely see an increase in your car insurance costs and be placed on an SR-22 insurance plan for high-risk drivers.

You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Once installed in your car, you’ll have to take its breathalyzer test to unlock the ignition and operate your vehicle.   


Getting a DUI charge starts with arrest and then court arraignment, where a judge will decide on your penalty. It could range from fines, driver’s license suspensions, probation, and possible jail time, depending on the severity of your case.  

After the penalty sentence, you can qualify to get your driver’s license back with an assessment or rehabilitation of your alcohol use until you’re approved. Thus, choosing the right lawyer and familiarizing yourself with what can happen can help you get through the process.  

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