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Delaware DUI charges carry hefty criminal and civil penalties

Getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol can result in tragedy. In order to reduce the number of accidents related to alcohol, Delaware has instituted some rather harsh policies. Driving under the influence (DUI) offenses apply to any kind of motor vehicle, even a moped. Those who end up convicted of DUI charges could find it irrevocably alters their life.

In many states, the penalties for DUI-related offenses increase with the number of convictions on a person's record. Each state sets a specific period for how long the state can look back at those previous charges when determining charges and penalties. Many states limit that period to five or ten years. In Delaware, that period is lifelong. No matter how long it's been since your last offense, it will still count against you when it comes to charges and punishments assigned.

What is considered a DUI in Delaware?

For those under the age of 21, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 percent or greater results in criminal charges. For those 21 or older, the BAC cutoff is 0.08 percent. Commercial drivers get held to a higher standard than other adult drivers, with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher resulting in criminal charges (and probably the loss of their commercial license).

If you were hoping to avoid charges by refusing a breath test, however, you could end up in additional trouble. Delaware's implied consent law states that anyone who drives on public roads agrees to take chemical impairment tests. Refusing results in a fine and loss of your license for a year.

How does Delaware penalize DUI offenses?

First time offenders receive the most lenience, and even they are subject to harsh penalties. A first DUI conviction carries up to six months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $1,500 and loss of driver's license for between 12 and 24 months.

A second DUI offense results in between two and eighteen months in jail, a fine of between $740 and $2,500, and loss of their driver's license for between 24 and 30 months. In some cases, an ignition interlock device may also end up required. Third time DUI offenders could spend between one and two years in jail, in addition to a fine of between $1,500 and $5,000, loss of their license for between 24 and 30 months and the potential for an ignition interlock device.

Fourth offenses carry between two and five years in jail, a fine of between $3,000 and $7,000 and five years without a license. Those convicted of fifth offense or more will face felony charges carrying a minimum sentence of three years in jail, while a sixth offense has a minimum of five years, and a seventh carries a minimum of a decade behind bars.

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