Generally, a person receiving their first DUI is not prosecuted as harshly as one can be for such a crime. The hope is that one DUI conviction is enough to deter such behavior in the future. However, repeat offenses are not unheard of. Subsequent DUIs are treated more seriously than first offenses, with punishments, including jail time and fines, increasing substantially.
In Missouri, a first-offense DUI is punishable with up to 6 months of jail time, up to a $500 fine, and a 30 day license suspension. For a second offense, the limits on jail time and fines double, to one year of jail time, a $1000 fine, and the license suspension term increases to one year. For any more than two DUIs, offenders can be prosecuted to the highest limit the law allows for such a crime, which may include up to for years in jail, a $5000 fine, and a 10 year license suspension. Sentences can be more harsh for offenders who are found to commit other crimes while driving under the influence, especially if another person is harmed or killed.
While excessive DUIs for one person are uncommon, some individuals have excelled in the collection of DUI offenses. The highest number of DUIs on record for one person goes to a Virginia man who has seen 25 DUI convictions. His latest sentence included seven years in prison. He is followed closely by a New Mexico man who has 25 recorded DUIs, including his latest, for which officers recorded a blood alcohol content of .392 – a level which can be fatal in humans.
Not all DUI multiple-offenders are allowed back on to the streets, however. Texas has become well-known for its particularly harsh DUI sentencing laws, which state that a third offense DUI is classified as a third-degree felony. If any person should receive two convictions of felony DUI charges, the can be sentenced to life in prison. The jury can also find the vehicle of a drunk driver to be a deadly weapon in DUI trials, which may increase the likelihood of a life-sentence. Thus far four people have been given life sentences for multiple DUIs, one each in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
While not all states are the same in how they treat DUI convictions, the increasing scale of punishment for subsequent convictions highlights the importance of working with your lawyer to avoid charges whether you have never been charged with a DUI before, or you have previous convictions on your record.