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Common misconceptions about the legal system can lead people to make problematic decisions when they find themselves in a tough position, such as facing criminal charges due to a traffic stop. Quite a few people believe that a first-time offense of any kind will receive minimal penalties if they plead guilty, provided it was not a violent crime or one that resulted in injury or death to another a person.

While it is true that some judges have a more lenient approach to first-time offenses, other judges may specifically take steps to drive home the seriousness of criminal activity in the hopes of deterring that person from making similar decisions in the future. People who plead guilty to avoid consequences can find themselves disappointed and facing serious penalties.

While a first time DUI offense may seem minor, these charges can carry substantial consequences that justify taking an aggressive defensive approach toward those pending charges.

The criminal consequences of a first DUI in Kentucky

Kentucky refers to impaired driving offenses as driving under the influence (DUI), although they also recognize the acronym DWI, which stands for driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated. The penalties someone faces depend on their driving record, their criminal history and other potentially aggravating factors, such as having minor children in the vehicle.

Someone facing their first DUI charge in the last 10 years without aggravating factors could face between two and 30 days in prison, as well as a fine of as much as $500, in addition to court fees. On their own, those may not seem like staggeringly terrible penalties, but there’s a hidden caveat to the comparative leniency shown to first-time offenders.

If you get arrested for impaired driving again in the next decade, you will face more significant consequences, including between 30 days and 12 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

The civil impact of a DUI conviction

While entering a guilty plea lets you miss out on the potential embarrassment of court, it will result in a criminal record. Your public criminal record could impact everything from your employment prospects to your education. Even companies that offer charitable services often perform background checks before approving someone for help.

As if the criminal record itself wouldn’t be problematic enough, you will also have to deal with other civil consequences, including the mandatory suspension of your license. A first time DUI will result in the loss of your license for between 30 and 120 days, which could affect your freedom and your finances. That penalty also increases with subsequent offenses, with a second DUI resulting in the loss of your license for between 12 and 18 months.