It is true that DUI penalties increase as you get subsequent offenses, but that does not mean that a first offense is not something you should take seriously. The penalties can still be rather harsh.
If your blood alcohol concentration is over .20, you have to go to jail for at least seven days in a row. Even if it's not, you could get at least 48 hours behind bars, and the maximum sentence is 11 months and 29 days.
You will also lose your driver's license for a full year, and you'll have to go to a treatment program for drug and alcohol use. You'll need to pay a fine that could be as much as $1,500 -- with a minimum of $350 -- and you may have to pay restitution if someone was hurt.
The costs can really add up. Experts note that a single DUI could cost $4,900 when you consider the increases to your insurance, your court costs, the cost of towing your car, paying bail and other associated costs.
Plus, the judge may say that you have to install and use an ignition interlock device. This means, even when you do drive, you have to blow into the device and prove you're sober or the car won't start. You have to pay for this device, which could cost around $1,000. If you have two DUIs in five years, this is a requirement, but it can be ordered for a first offense if the judge believes it is necessary.
As you can see, the impact this has on you can be huge, both personally and financially. That's why it's critical to know all you can about the legal process, your defense options and what next steps to take.
Source: Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, "DUI Offenses," accessed Dec. 23, 2016