Punishments for DWI

DWI Punishments: A Well-Informed Perspective

About three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash sometime in their life, according to NHTSA 2023 figures. In efforts to curb the high number of deaths and injuries caused because of impaired drivers, some states are trying to toughen laws regarding punishments for DWIs. Things like setting up DWI checkpoints, raising penalties by increasing fines and implementing jail time, as well as enforcing stricter punishments for DWI offenses beginning with the first conviction have been passed into law, or are being pushed to be added to new laws in order to address the widespread problem.

First-time offenses

Even convictions for first-time offenses could carry punishments for DWIs that include having a device installed on their ignition locks that would require a breath sample prior to the vehicle starting. Currently, forty-five states permit convicted DWI offenders to operate their vehicle only if it has been equipped with an ignition interlock. The punishments for DWIs are now carrying much longer penalties as well with lawmakers hoping the larger implication will cause more drivers to make better choices.

DWI laws are specifically addressed by each state, and sometimes more specifically by each county. Most states follow fairly similar guidelines and rules concerning DWI but changed laws are sending the message that the consequences can be life-altering. Punishments for DWI factor in things like blood alcohol level and they can result in license suspension or revocation.

Prior convictions

Based on prior convictions, the type of DWI conviction and sentence, the age of the offender, the state in which the offense was committed, as well as other factors, the DWI criminal conviction may remain on the person’s record, influencing any additional convictions, employment, professional positions, and other areas. An attorney specializing in this area of law can discuss possible punishments for DWIs with you.

Fines and Fees

One of the most common punishments for a DWI conviction is fines. Depending on the specific facts of your case and your state’s laws, you could face thousands of dollars in fines for a first-time offense. Additionally, you may have to pay legal fees associated with your DWI defense.

Jail Time

In some cases, a court may impose jail time as part of your punishment for DWI. First-time offenders may be sentenced to up to one year in prison, though many states allow for alternative sentences such as community service or probation instead of jail time. For repeat offenses, jail time usually increases significantly.

License Suspension

Another common consequence of a DWI conviction is license suspension or revocation. In some cases, you will lose your driver’s license temporarily. That could mean anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on the charge and other factors. But, in some cases, particularly in cases involving multiple offenses within a short period of time, the judge may order a permanent revocation of your license.

Community Service

In some instances, a court may require you to perform community service as part of your sentence. This typically involves volunteering at approved institutions in your local area and could involve tasks such as painting buildings, cleaning up parks, or helping out at soup kitchens.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device (IID) is another form of punishment for DWI convictions. An IID is a device that is installed in your car that requires you to blow into it every time you start your car in order to make sure you aren’t under the influence of alcohol before driving. This type of punishment usually lasts for several months but can vary depending on the specifics of your case.

Stricter Punishment Factors

Certain conditions will require stricter punishments for DWIs, such as

  • if a child was in the vehicle with the affected driver,
  • if the speed at which the driver was operating the vehicle was excessive
  • if the person’s blood alcohol concentration was very high,
  • if property damage, injury or death resulted,
  • if the person is not of legal drinking age yet,
  • as well as other factors like prior conviction and refusal to submit to a test.

Every year, tens of thousands of people die in alcohol-related crashes and drunk driving is the nation’s most frequently committed violent crime. To find out what punishments for DWIs exist in your area, a DWI attorney can help discuss your specific case.


It is important to keep in mind that each case is different and certain punishments may not apply depending on the details. Furthermore, some states have more lenient punishments than others. Therefore, it is always best to consult an experienced DWI attorney if you find yourself facing charges related to DUI/DWI to ensure that you receive fair treatment and a just outcome.