How a DUI Record May Increase Any Future DUI Punishment
UPDATED: February 6, 2020
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Once you have a DUI record, the history of those arrests and convictions can continue to affect your punishments for future DUI arrests. Regardless of whether your DUI record contains arrests, convictions or probated sentences, any DUI record can increase your punishment if you are arrested again for driving while intoxicated.
DUI Convictions and Increase in Punishments
Any prior DUI conviction or probated sentence can increase a future DUI punishment. Most states will classify your first or second DUI conviction as a misdemeanor. Some people actually arrive to court thinking they don’t need a lawyer because they are going to get a deferred or probated sentence. DUI deferred adjudications and probated sentences are not like traffic tickets. They don’t fall off of your record after time has passed; they stick to your DUI record.
Your range of punishments will be enhanced with each new DUI conviction, even if the sentence for your first and second DUIs were probated. Depending on the penal code of the state where you are arrested, your third or fourth DUI will be considered a felony-level offense. Instead of looking at minor time in a county jail, you could be sentenced to time in your state's prison system.
DUI and Sobriety Tests
After their first or second DUI, it's not uncommon for a person to altogether stop consenting to sobriety tests because they think these tests are responsible for their prior DUI convictions. Lawmakers realized that getting consent from a habitual DUI defendant was more difficult. To make the gathering of evidence easier for law enforcement, some states have passed mandatory blood test requirements for subsequent DUI arrests.
In Texas, for example, if you have previously been convicted two or more times of driving under the influence, then an officer is required to obtain a sample of your blood, even if you object. Once an officer has a sample of your blood, the prosecution of your case becomes easier. Between your prior convictions and the mandatory blood test, the chances increase dramatically that you will be convicted of a felony DUI charge.
Other Ways a DUI Record Can Increase Punishments
A DUI record can increase your punishment through its existence alone. For first-time DUI arrests, some prosecutors will offer plea bargains to alternative charges, like obstruction of a roadway. When entering a plea, a DUI defendant tends to think that the DUI arrest will never come up again. But there are two main ways in which your whole history could potentially be used against you.
The first is through the terms of the plea bargain itself; you will most likely sign a document accepting a plea to a lesser included offense. In many states, the prosecutor will be able to introduce this document along with the rest of the court’s file to show that you were previously charged, but were given leniency through a plea bargain to a lesser charge. The prosecutor will then argue that since you have already had the benefit of leniency, the jury should be harder on you this time after reviewing your extensive DUI record.
The second way a DUI record can affect punishment is by the state re-proving prior charges. Many states only allow actual convictions to come in. Some states, however, allow any prior bad acts to be used against you, even if they did not result in a conviction. The state can simply call the officer from your prior DUI record to come in and tell the jury about the prior incident of drunk driving. Instead of defending yourself in just the case that you are on trial for, you may find yourself facing all of the offenses listed on your DUI record.
DUI Record and Getting Help
The bottom line is that once you start developing a DUI record, that record has the potential to increase the severity of future punishments for subsequent DUI or DWI arrests. As the push to enhance DUI punishments increases, you can expect even more intensity in the punishments for any future drunk driving offenses. If you have been arrested for a DUI, consult with a DUI attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to start reviewing the options for mitigating your record.