Across the U.S., the penalties for a DUI or DWI charge can vary, depending on the number of previous alcohol-related charges a person has or the aggravating or mitigating factors surrounding the charge. In many cases, there are explicit guidelines for each time a person receives a DUI or DWI charge, including fines, court costs and even the installation of an ignition interlock device. These penalties increase with each additional DUI or DWI charge, compounding the lessons taught through the court system when a person makes the choice to drive drunk. However, for the first-time offender, many states may offer a “DUI washout” or “look back” period that can allow an offender to eventually continue to live as if the conviction never occurred.
Since a DUI or DWI conviction can cause problems obtaining or retaining employment, as well as affect other areas of life, many states include a DUI washout or look back period in the laws as a way for people to atone for mistakes and not pay for those mistakes forever. The contingency of the DUI washout or look back period is that within the defined number of years, the convicted offender may not have any other convictions. In other words, if a person is convicted of a DUI in 2004 in a state with a 10-year DUI washout period and has no other alcohol-related convictions in 10 years, the DUI charge is considered “wiped” from that person’s record. A DUI washout or look back period helps the DUI offender who has truly made a very bad error in judgment, and is not ever considered an option for a repeat DUI offender.
There are also states that do not have a DUI washout or look back period, and instead consider an offender’s record for his or her lifetime. This means that even if several decades have passed and a person receives a second or subsequent DUI charge, he or she will likely face stricter penalties in court. Considering the danger of driving drunk and the stigma attached to anyone who has a DUI, even a DUI washout or look back period seems to be little consolation for the tough road ahead of the convicted offender.