Getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having a drink is always a bad idea, but situations can go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye. Getting arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) offense can be unpredictable and once it happens, there can be a snowball effect. In many states, there are conditions that are considered aggravating factors in a DUI. These factors are considered to be things that “enhance” a DUI conviction, meaning the penalties will be harsher given certain criteria.
Just as different states have different DUI laws and penalties for those convicted of DUIs, different states also have differences in their aggravating factors. A common aggravating factor in a DUI is a particular blood alcohol level. For instance, in North Carolina, a driver convicted of a DWI (North Carolina refers to DUIs as DWIs) who also had a blood alcohol level of .15 or greater at the time of the offense will face harsher penalties and a more serious conviction. In Minnesota, though, the offender’s blood alcohol level at the time of the offense would have to be at least .20 before an aggravating factor determination comes into play.
Another typical aggravating factor in a DUI is having a minor in the motor vehicle at the time of the offense. Many states say that if a child under the age of 16 is in the vehicle, the offender faces harsher penalties. However, there are states where the minor must be younger than 16, so it is important to be aware of the aggravating factors and how they can affect you should you get arrested for a DUI. Most states also consider more than one DUI conviction within a certain period of time an aggravating factor. Many states take DUIs that occur within 10 years of one another into consideration and some states look within 7 or 5 years.
Aggravating factors in a DUI are taken into consideration because they are perceived to make the offense more dangerous. It is bad enough to drive while under the influence of mind-altering chemicals and it is worse to engage in certain other behaviors while doing so. Aggravating factors are often taken into consideration because they enhance the endangerment of the lives of others. Some examples of this are speeding and attempting to avoid apprehension during a DUI. North Carolina and other states that take these types of actions into consideration may also have regular aggravating factors and another category of grossly aggravating factors, which add more penalties to convictions.