What to do if a loved one is faced with a DUI or DWI

Last Edited: August 26, 2019

Patricia Howard, LMFT, CADC

Clinically Reviewed
Jim Brown, CDCA

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.


Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is illegal in every state in the country. Jurisdictions operate under laws created by and for their own jurisdictions so blood alcohol levels (BAC) vary depending on which jurisdiction you are in. For example, if you go to a party in a jurisdiction where the highest blood alcohol level you can have and still drive legally is .08. That means that for every 100 grams of blood, there is .08 grams of alcohol in the bloodstream. Of course, the more alcohol that saturates the blood, the less competent you are behind the wheel. There are no signs on highways that warn you of the highest legal BAC, so while you may be legal at .08 at the party, it’s quite hard to tell when you cross into another jurisdiction with a legal BAC of .02.

In a perfect world, all drivers would strive for abstinence until they are home for the night. However, we do not live in a perfect world, and sometimes, we make mistakes. If you or a loved one is faced with a DUI or DWI, contact an attorney that is familiar with the law in your jurisdiction, and has plenty of experience.

The judge will have the final say in most cases. They have the authority to decide a drunk driver’s consequences. Some of these consequences include jail time, nullification of your driver’s license, taking away your license plates and even impounding or immobilizing your car. The consequences depend on your record and your habitual drinking/substance abuse history. The goal is to make it difficult for the offender to drive under the influence again.

Oftentimes, attorneys may encourage a plea bargain. A plea bargain means that the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. There is usually no guarantee that the judge will accept a plea bargain. There is a risk of pleading guilty. Since the judge is not held to these word of mouth agreements, he or she may still hand down the maximum sentence. While that does happen once in while, usually, if your plea bargain is reasonable, the judge will have no problem following through on the agreement.

If you or someone you love has gotten more than one DUI or DWI, it may be time to consider detox and rehab. Drinking alcohol and using drugs can cause a person to make dangerous decisions. Getting behind the wheel puts others at risk. More often than not, you or your loved one has no malicious intent. That is not to say that he or she has a problem that needs some immediate and urgent attention before the unthinkable happens. Alcoholics are unable to get sober on their own. Once an addiction is in place, he or she will need help restoring brain function back to normal. This takes place in a treatment program by specially trained medical professionals. In fact, the judge may even require it as part of your consequences. Embrace it and use it for a fresh start.

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