Whether you’re traveling on business or you’re enjoying a long-awaited vacation, there may be no worse time to get a DUI than when you’re out of state.
The complex legal fallout after your offense can quickly turn your trip into a nightmare, especially when it grows harder to figure out your next steps. Are you dealing with the laws in your home state or the state you were traveling in? Where do you attend your court dates, and what happens to your license when you get home?
These serious alcohol-related incidents can be hard to navigate. While it’s always best to work with a criminal lawyer for these types of offenses, it’s also a good idea to know what to expect. Read on to learn more.
Communication Between States
Before we dive into the nuances of getting a DUI in another state, it’s important to understand that all states communicate information about driving records.
Most states do this via the Driver License Compact (DLC). Through this agreement, all U.S. states except Wisconsin and Massachusetts exchange information about driving violations. Even the states that are not members of the DLC may still share information with other states or take action against you.
Many states, including Florida, also use the newer Nonresident Violator Compact (NVC) to track and process driving violations across state borders.
Under these agreements, states must recognize the validity of other states’ driver’s licenses. States must also penalize drivers for moving violations that took place in another state.
In other words, just because you’re driving under the influence in another state doesn’t mean you’ll be free from repercussions in your home state. In fact, getting a DUI in another state can often be more complicated than simply getting one in your home state. Because you’ll be dealing with legal red tape from two states instead of one, it’s best practice to consult with an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.
If the arresting state has charged you with a DUI offense, you can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. You’ll have to appear in court to make your case.
Note that when you’ve violated the traffic laws in another state, you’ll usually have to return to the state in question for court dates.
For many people, this can be time-consuming and expensive. However, if you fail to show up in court, it will be difficult or even impossible for you to beat the charges against you. A judge may even issue a warrant if you don’t appear for your court date.
Depending on the violation, state, and legal proceedings, there may be another option. An attorney can sometimes act as your surrogate in certain cases with misdemeanor DUI charges. This allows them to travel and attend your court dates on your behalf.
Each state has its own laws regarding DUIs, but you’ll often face a possible license suspension. This is especially likely if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) was over the state’s legal limit, or if you refused to submit to a breathalyzer test.
Once the state’s DMV receives the information about your arrest, you will receive a temporary suspension. In most areas, you’ll have a limited period of time in which you can appeal your suspension. If you don’t request a hearing, or if you request a hearing but miss it, the state will uphold your suspension.
After this happens, the state will share this information with your home state. What happens next varies according to your home state’s membership in the DLC and NVC.
Florida suspends the license of drivers with first-time DUI offenses for six months. However, if you were driving intoxicated elsewhere, Florida will always uphold a suspension period equal to that of the state where you got the DUI. In other words, if you received a DUI in a state where the penalty carries a minimum suspension of one year, Florida will extend its suspension to one year as well.
Note that there are some states in which a first DUI doesn’t result in a license suspension. If you get a DUI in one of these states, Florida won’t impose a reciprocal license suspension.
Again, the details of any penalties you may face for an out-of-state DUI will vary by state. They will also vary according to the severity of the offense, your driving record and prior offenses, and your criminal background.
In addition to a suspended license, you may face penalties like fines, jail time, or probation. You may have to complete a DUI or driving course, or the authorities may install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car.
If you fail to follow through with these court penalties—such as missing classes for a DUI course or failing to pay fines—the state of Florida may lengthen your license suspension.
All suspensions appear in the National Driver Register (NDR). This database includes information about past driving convictions. If you seek a license in another state in the future, the state may refuse to issue one if the NDR shows a past conviction.
Last, but not least, your future car insurance will often be higher if you have a DUI charge on your record.
Get Expert Help If You Get a DUI Out of State
As you can see, the complex penalties, fines, charges, and legal red tape associated with an out-of-state DUI can be a nightmare. Dealing with the laws of two states is often confusing and difficult for drivers with no legal experience. Worse, the stakes for losing a case can feel impossibly high.
Don’t fight these charges alone! If you get a DUI out-of-state, you need a knowledgeable legal team with expertise in DUI law on your side.
Our team of attorneys has years of experience with the legal system in Florida and beyond. Get a free instant case evaluation to learn what we can do for you.
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