It's not exactly a secret that being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) can negatively affect your life in a variety of ways. That being said, many people still underestimate just how much a DUI charge can change their life.
The Criminal Penalties for a DUI in West Virginia
Before we look at how a DUI can affect aspects of your life like professional opportunities or your economic outlook, let's go over the basic criminal penalties imposed on DUI offenders in West Virginia.
First-time offenders can expect:
- A fine of $100-500, or $200-1,000 if the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) was over .15%.
- A six-month license revocation. However, most DUI offenders cannot afford to lose their license for half a year. In West Virginia, first-time DUI offenders can choose to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their vehicle. Installing an IID reduces the license revocation to 15 days. The individual must then use the IID for 120 days. If the driver's BAC was over .15%, they must wait 45 days after installing an IID to get their license reinstated and use the IID for 270 days. It may be possible for DUI offenders to obtain a restricted license so they can travel to essential locations such as work, school, etc.
- A jail sentence of up to six months. However, first-time offenders often receive no jail sentence and are instead required to attend a treatment program and a defensive driving program. If the driver's BAC was over .15%, they must spend a minimum of two days in jail.
The legal penalties for DUIs in West Virginia escalate with subsequent offenses.
The penalties for a 2nd offense are:
- Six months to a year in jail,
- a fine of $1,000-3,000, and
- a 10-year license revocation.
The penalties for a third offense are:
- Two to five years in jail,
- a $3,000-5,000 fine, and
- a lifetime license revocation.
West Virginia penalizes DUI offenders harshly. Complicating factors can also escalate the severity of the DUI sentence. Some factors that may lead to an increased DUI penalty are:
- Having a minor in the car;
- Refusing to take a blood or breath test;
- Using another substance, like an illegal drug, in conjunction with alcohol;
- Damaging property while committing a DUI;
- Injuring or killing another person while committing a DUI.
These complicating factors can also escalate the class of the crime. For example, a first-time DUI offense is typically charged as a misdemeanor in West Virginia. However, if a person is killed while the DUI is being committed, the driver may also be charged with vehicular homicide, which is a felony.
That's important, because it's sometimes possible to expunge lower-class crimes, like misdemeanors, from an individual's criminal record. However, crimes like felonies are much more difficult to expunge. Felonies also carry harsher penalties than misdemeanors and have more long-lasting consequences.
That brings us to some of the other ways a DUI might affect your life.
Getting a DUI can Make Finding Employment & Housing Difficult
Most employers run criminal background checks on potential hires before they bring them on board. If you were convicted of a DUI, prospective employers will probably find out.
Some employers may outright refuse to hire individuals convicted of a DUI, especially for jobs that require the employee to handle a vehicle. Other employers may still hire you, but you might have to explain your criminal record during your interview or at some point during the hiring process. The employer may also require additional references before hiring you to verify your good character and ensure they don't have to worry about your behavior.
In short, a DUI can be a barrier to finding employment and can start you off at a deficit with an employer even if they do hire you.
The same can be true for finding housing. Potential landlords may reject your housing application after discovering you have a criminal record.
Getting a DUI can Be Surprisingly Expensive
In West Virginia, the average cost of a DUI charge—once all is said and done—is around $2,500. That figure encompasses court appearances, legal fees, fines, etc.
However, DUI's also come with several "hidden costs" that often surprise offenders. For example, you can also expect your car insurance to increase by around $900 after being convicted of a DUI. If you choose to install an IID to reduce your license revocation, you may also have to pay a fee to have the IID recalibrated every month to ensure it's working properly.
Insurance increases can be exceptionally prohibitive for DUI offenders since it's a yearly addition that can be difficult to reduce.
The monetary ramifications of a DUI are often costs offenders aren't prepared to pay, and can be especially damaging if you're already suffering financially.
Your Social & Professional Life May Suffer from a DUI
If you're convicted of a DUI, there's a good chance your social and professional relationships will also suffer.
For many relationships, a DUI charge is a strain. It may raise questions about the offender's drinking habits. If the offender is a parent, the DUI charge may affect their familial relationships or ability to see and spend time with their children.
The professional costs of a DUI are also often significant. Some employers may choose to let go of an employee convicted of a DUI, especially if they consistently operate a vehicle. Other employees may be concerned about that employee's habits going forward, which could impact their ability to receive raises or promotions.
For students, DUIs can also have a slew of nasty side-effects. Many schools will revoke scholarships for students convicted of a DUI.
A DUI can wreak havoc on your present and future opportunities. That's why it's so important to have a capable DUI attorney by your side throughout the process.
At Sutton & Janelle, PLLC, our DUI attorneys understand the ins and outs of DUI laws in West Virginia. We'll help you navigate your DUI case with confidence.
To learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (304) 867-0049.