What is a DUI in Delaware?
In Delaware, a DUI, which is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, is an offense that involves driving, physically controlling, or operating a vehicle, moped, or off-highway vehicle while in an inebriated state. Inebriation may result from ingesting alcohol or any other substance that intoxicates or impairs the driver's visual, physical, or mental abilities.
In addition, a person may be charged with a DUI if they fail a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) test. Delaware has a BAC limit, and drivers with an alcohol content that exceeds the limit may be found guilty. Motorists may also be arrested and charged with a DUI if found operating a vehicle after ingesting an inebriating drug, whether illegal or prescription.
The state has different court and administrative proceedings to address DUI offenses; hence, offenders may face criminal and administrative penalties. The penalties ascribed to DUI offenses include imprisonment, fines, mandatory treatment programs, and a loss of driving privileges as specified in Delaware's Motor Vehicle Code. Delaware DUI offenses are usually included in Delaware criminal records.
What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Delaware?
DUI and DWI are legal terms often used interchangeably. While DUI is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, DWI refers to Driving While Intoxicated. Both involve driving or operating vehicles while in an intoxicated or impaired state. Some states differentiate between the terms, assigning different penalties or sentences, but Delaware does not. In 21 Del. Laws, c.41, § 4177, the state uses the term DUI to represent all offenses that involve driving while under the influence of or with alcohol, drugs, and other prohibited substances.
However, a DWI typically involves a higher blood alcohol concentration in states where the law distinguishes between DUI and DWI.
Delaware DUI Laws
Delaware DUI statutes are outlined in 21 Del. Laws, c.41, § 4177. Per this law, it is illegal for motorists in the state to drive under the influence of intoxicants. In this case, being under the influence means that a motorist, as a result of alcohol or drug use, cannot exercise physical and mental judgment and physical control while operating a vehicle. In Delaware, it is illegal for a motorist to have:
- A blood alcohol content level of at least 0.08g per 100ml of blood within four (4) hours of driving
- Any amount of recreational or illicit drugs in the blood within four (4) hours of driving
- Motorists or persons who operate commercial vehicles must not drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04g or more in the breath or blood. It is also illegal for such persons to use any controlled substance or drug that impairs their driving ability.
DUI Penalties in Delaware
DUI penalties in Delaware are impacted by the offender's criminal history and any aggravating factors in the DUI offense. A person arrested for drunk driving will not be penalized the same way as a person who causes accidents or death while driving under the influence. DUI's are generally misdemeanor offenses; however, repeated and aggravated offenses may be treated as felonies and penalized more severely.
According to 21 Del. Laws, c.41, § 4177, DUI penalties in Delaware include:
- A minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $1500
- Imprisonment for up to 12 months
- A suspension of the driver's license
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
What Happens When You Get a DWI in Delaware?
The state of Delaware does not separate DUIs from DWIs. In Delaware, the term DUI represents all offenses that involve driving in an inebriated state, and they are penalized according to the provisions of 21 Del. Laws, c.41, § 4177.
Following a DUI offense, offenders can expect to face administrative and court processes. Offenders may be penalized with fines, imprisonment, and the mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices.
What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Delaware?
In Delaware first-time DUI offenders are motorists who have been charged with a DUI but do not have any prior DUI offenses within the preceding ten-year period.
Delaware has an implied consent law, which allows law enforcement officials to test the breath, blood, or urine of a motorist at will. If an officer has reason to believe that a person is driving drunk, the officer may require the person to take a test. Refusal to take a test may result in the revocation of the offending motorist's license. Following a DUI arrest, the arresting officer takes the offender's license and issues a temporary one. However, his does not apply to motorists whose licenses are already revoked or suspended. To recover the seized driver's license, offenders must request an administrative hearing at the DMV within 15 days of the arrest.
The DMV's administrative hearing process helps to determine:
- Whether an officer had probable cause to believe the offender was operating, controlling, or driving a vehicle while intoxicated
- Whether there is evidence that the offender was driving or controlling a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
- Whether the offender refused to take a test after the officer informed them of the penalty for refusal
The DMV may revoke a first-time DUI offender's driving license and privileges for up to three (3) months if the offender gets an unfavorable ruling. If the offender refuses to take a test, the DMV revokes the offender's license and driving privileges for up to 12 months.
In place of a court trial, first-time DUI offenders may enroll in a First Offense Election Program. Offenders who apply to this program are deemed guilty and have waived the right to a speedy trial. Such persons may also not request administrative DMV hearings or withdraw any prior requests. To be eligible for the program, the offender must not:
- Have a previous DUI conviction
- Have at least three (3) violations within two (2) years
- Cause injury to another person
- Be transporting a minor (person under the age of 17) while driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
- Have a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.15%
- Have been driving without a license or with a suspended or revoked license at the time of the arrest.
The IID Diversion Option of the First Offense Election allows offenders to drive after at least one month of revocation if the offender meets specific criteria:
- The offender had a valid Delaware driver's license at the time of the offense
- The offender agreed to take a chemical test at the time of the offense
- The DMV has revoked the offender's license for at least one (1) month
- The offender has completed an evaluation and is enrolled in the appropriate program
In Delaware, a first DUI offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one (1) year imprisonment and fines between $500 and $1,500. All first-time DUI offenders in the state must also register for the IID program, requiring offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed on vehicles accessible to the offenders or registered in offenders' names. However, the IID program is only available to offenders who have served a minimum revocation period.
What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Delaware?
In Delaware, second-time DUI offenders who are charged with a DUI within ten (10) years of a first conviction can expect to face administrative penalties like fines and license revocation. Second DUI offenses may result in license revocation for up to 18 months. Offending motorists with a BAC of at least 0.16% face revocation for up to 24 months. If the BAC is up to 0.20%, the offender faces license revocation for an additional year.
The minimum fine for a second-time DUI is $750, and the maximum fine is $2,500. Second-time DUI offenders may also face court sanctions like imprisonment for a minimum of 60 days and a maximum of 18 months. According to 21 Del. Laws, c.41, § 4177, the court does not typically suspend minimum sentences for second-time DUI offenses. However, if the offender completes the Driving Under the Influence Treatment Program, which includes 30 days of community service, the court may suspend the minimum sentence.
In addition to existing second-time DUI penalties, a refusal to take tests may result in a loss of license or driving privileges for up to 24 months.
What Happens After a Third DUI in Delaware?
A third DUI offense occurs any time after the first two convictions. Third-time DUI offenses are Class G felony offenses in Delaware. Offenders can expect to face fines of up to $5,000. Additional administrative penalties include a revocation of the offender's driving license for up to 24 months. If the driver has a BAC of at least 0.16%, the license will be revoked for an additional six (6) months. Drivers with a BAC of at least 0.20% may face an additional year of license revocation.
Third-time DUI offenders who have revoked licenses may request a limited license if they are enrolled in treatment. This type of license requires the installation of an ignition interlock device. Offenders must have served a minimum revocation sentence of 30 to 90 days to be eligible.
The courts may sentence third-time DUI offenders to prison for a minimum term of one (1) year and a maximum term of two (2) years. Typically, the court does not suspend the first three (3) months of the offender's sentence and does not allow furlough, reduction, or early release. However, if the offender participates in a drug and alcohol treatment program or drug and alcohol abstinence program, the court may suspend up to nine (9) months of the offender's minimum sentence.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Delaware?
All Delaware DUI sentences stay on the offender's record for at least five (5) years. It is impossible to get rid of DUI records before this period elapses. Unless the court seals or expunges a DUI record, it is public information, and it is accessible by any member of the public upon request. According to 11 Del. Laws, c.43, § 4372(f), DUI offenses are not eligible for expungement in Delaware.
DUI Expungement in Delaware
Delaware makes provisions for the expungement of criminal records to protect offenders from the unwarranted damage that can often result from criminal records, such as the ability to obtain credit, education, employment, or housing.
When a DUI is expunged in Delaware, all records relating to the offense are segregated, destroyed, or stored with the State Bureau of identification within 60 days of the court's expungement order. Expunged records are not available to the public but may be released on request to authorized persons. After expungement, the offender may not disclose their arrest or conviction for an offense whose record has been expunged. The law also prohibits anyone from requesting any such disclosure.
However, DUI offenses are considered very serious, and as provided by 11 Del. Laws, c.43, § 4372(f), DUI offenses are not eligible for mandatory or discretionary expungement.
How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Delaware?
It is not likely that a first DUI offense in Delaware will result in jail time. The maximum jail sentence for a first DUI offense is one (1) year; however, judges typically order probation instead of jail time. Offenders can expect to pay fines and face other administrative penalties, but jail time is only likely when there are aggravating circumstances, such as child endangerment or vehicular homicide.
What is the Average Cost of DUI in Delaware?
In Delaware, DUIs can be expensive as offenders may need to pay hefty fines, fees, and other costs associated with administrative DUI penalties.
For a first DUI offense, an offender can expect to pay a fine of $500 to $1,500. However, second-time DUI fines range from $750 to $2,500, while fines for subsequent offenses can be as much as $5,000.
Persons arrested for DUIs must request evaluations with the Delaware Evaluation and Referral Program, which may cost $100. Driver education programs cost $250, and the license reinstatement fee is about $200. Ignition interlock devices are installed at the offender's expense, and the devices cost $70 to install along with a maintenance fee of $75 monthly.
Offenders who choose to retain attorneys may need to pay between $3,500 and $5,000 for first DUI offenses. Attorney fees increase with the severity of the offense. If the DUI involves property damage or accidents, the offender may need to repair or replace damaged property or pay hospital bills. On average, DUIs cost about $10,000 or more in Delaware.
How Much is Bail for a DUI in Delaware?
When law enforcement agents arrest a motorist for a DUI, the motorist typically spends some hours in jail. The court may release the offender on their recognizance with an order to return to court on a specified date. Depending on the severity of the offense, the court may order bail; however, the bail amount will depend on the severity of the offense. For example, bail for a first-time DUI offense may cost up to $500, while bail for a second DUI offense may cost upwards of $2500.
How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Delaware?
The DMV revokes the driving licenses of persons who violate traffic laws in the state. The length of the revocation period depends on the type and severity of the offense. The DMV mandatorily revokes the licenses of persons charged with DUI offenses. Other offenders whose licenses get mandatory revocation include:
- Persons who use fraudulent information or make false statements
- Persons who contribute to the death of another person by operating a vehicle
- Persons with three 'Reckless Driving' convictions
The offender must pay a $200 fee to reinstate the revoked license. Additionally, the offender may be required to take many exams before reinstatement, including all road, eye-screen, and written exams. To be eligible for license reinstatement, the offender must have submitted their driver's license to the DMV for at least six (6) months and must not have driven during the revocation period.
How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Delaware?
DUI offenses may lead to hefty fines and a jail term, along with other administrative penalties like license confiscation or revocation. A DUI offense could result in job loss and make it difficult to find a new job. Employers conduct background checks and may not employ persons with a DUI history. Personal and professional relationships may also suffer from a DUI conviction. A DUI conviction may also lead to increased insurance rates and ineligibility for certain offers such as scholarships.
Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Delaware?
Yes, it is possible to get fired for a DUI in Delaware. Many factors determine whether a person gets fired for a DUI, including the nature of the offense, the presence of any aggravating factors, the offender's criminal history, and the company's policy. Employers might view a DUI conviction as an inability to make good decisions and may terminate the offender's employment. Schools commonly dismiss teachers for DUIs as it shows a lack of sound judgment.
How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Delaware?
In Delaware, DUI or sobriety checkpoints are legal. DUI checkpoints are typically set up at intersections on the road so that law enforcement agents can check for intoxicated drivers. Delaware has a checkpoint strikeforce event from July to December every year. There are increased checkpoints throughout the state in this period to discourage impaired driving. Delaware has random checkpoints throughout the state; however, there are checkpoint announcements on the state's official websites occasionally.
Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?
A DWI charge often connotes higher intoxication and, consequently, harsher penalties. Therefore, a DWI is worse than a DUI. While some states have different definitions for both terms, Delaware does not. In Delaware, the legal term for all offenses, including driving while under alcohol control, is "DUI". To determine whether a person is guilty of a DUI, they must undergo breath, urine, or blood tests. Once the sample returns a higher alcohol level than is permitted by state laws (0.08%), the person may face serious consequences.