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DUI Third Offense & Penalties



A DUI third offense conviction carries severe penalties in any state. While the majority of states still consider a third DUI offense committed outside a certain period as a misdemeanor, other states enhance the charge to felony status with license revocations extending as long as 10 years or indefinitely.

DUI Third Offense Penalties

The consequences of a third drunk driving offense vary depending on the state where the offense occurred. Some states treat a third offense as a felony if it occurred within a certain period from the second conviction, usually seven to 10 years.

Even if a misdemeanor, most states will enhance the penalties if a minor was a passenger or if the offender was already driving on a restricted or suspended license when the offense was committed. Some states have laws that will upgrade these aggravating circumstances to felonies.

A conviction for a third DUI means nearly certain jail time. Knowing that they stand to lose their driving privileges for many years whether they are convicted or not, many third-time offenders choose to refuse breath or chemical testing, as well as refusing to perform any field sobriety tests (FST) or balance tests, because they are savvy enough to not provide any incriminating evidence.

Generally, though, third DUI offenders will have to consider the following possible penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum jail time of up to 120 days or more
  • Prison time of up to seven years and several years of probation
  • Probation in lieu of prison or jail (extremely rare)
  • Enhanced prison time of up to 12 years if serious bodily injury or death occurs
  • Enhanced jail time if an elevated blood alcohol content
  • Fines of $1,000 to $25,000
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device if allowed to drive on restricted license or after reinstatement
  • Mandatory DUI school
  • Loss of license for up to 10 years with some states invoking permanent or indefinite revocation
  • Vehicle confiscation
  • Substantial insurance premiums if available or other costly alternatives
  • Habitual offender status

DUI Collateral Consequences

Any DUI has serious consequences, but a third conviction may mean a felony on your permanent criminal record and certain loss of your driving privileges for a decade or more. In most cases, you will not be able to have this conviction expunged or erased from your record, regardless whether it is a misdemeanor.

A felony conviction will seriously hamper your ability to find employment or housing, obtain a student loan or any other kind of loan, and be accepted by many schools. Few, if any, professions requiring a public license will allow you to practice with a felony conviction, and you may lose your professional status or license once convicted.

If you face a third DUI offense conviction, immediately contact a DUI lawyer or criminal defense attorney with considerable experience defending drivers accused of a DUI.