If you face a first offense charge of driving under the influence (DUI) in Kansas, you should make certain that you fully understand the penalties and the other consequences of a conviction before you plead guilty. Talking with an experienced Kansas DUI defense attorney is the only way to develop that understanding and evaluate options that are available to defend against the charge.
The Kansas drunk driving law lists five circumstances under which you can be charged with a violation of the DUI law. If a person operates or attempts to operate a vehicle in any one of the following situations, law enforcement may charge the driver with a DUI offense:
For drivers under the age of 21, the blood alcohol level for a DUI violation is .02 or more. For commercial drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License, the legal limit is .04. Special provisions of the law apply to drivers in both of these categories, and different penalties apply as well.
Under the preceding statutory provisions, there are two ways of meeting one of the criteria for a violation. The first is by blood, urine, or breath alcohol test results. The second is through factual evidence that the driver is incapable of driving safely, gathered by a police officer through observation. In the latter case, the evidence may include field sobriety tests, the smell of alcohol, and similar facts.
Penalties for a DUI conviction depend entirely on the driver’s prior record of DUI convictions. All convictions and diversions occurring after July 2001 are considered. If a driver has no prior record of DUI convictions or diversions, a first offense is a Class B misdemeanor that carries jail time, a fine, and suspension of driving privileges. The first-offense penalty provisions include:
A first-time conviction carries a minimum jail sentence of 90 days and a maximum of up to six months. The judge has discretion to sentence a defendant to 100 hours of community service instead of jail time.
For a first offense DUI, the judge may impose a fine of between $750 and $1000. An additional Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) fee of $150 and court costs also apply.
Probation is possible following conviction on a first offense DUI. After a defendant serves at least 48 hours (two days) in jail or in a treatment program, the judge may permit the defendant to go on probation. The court imposes conditions on the probation, such as not violating any laws, going to alcohol school, and not using alcohol or drugs. The judge has the discretion to impound the defendant’s vehicle.
After conviction of a first offense DUI, driving privilege suspension depends on the level of the defendant’s test results or refusal, as follows:
After a driver with a test result of .150 or more serves 45 days of a suspension, the driver may apply for a restricted license that permits driving to and from work in a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. For a driver who refused a test, the period for applying for a restricted license is 90 days.
License suspensions for minors under age 21 years of age are as follows:
In addition, minors between ages 14 and 18 are tried in adult court, rather than being prosecuted in juvenile court.
The legal limit for a driver with a Commercial Driver’s License is a .04 blood alcohol level. If a CDL holder is convicted of DUI or suspended administratively for test failure or refusal, the driver receives a one-year suspension on the first offense. The second offense results in lifetime suspension. The penalties apply even if the offense occurred in the driver’s own non-commercial vehicle when the driver was not working. CDL holders are not eligible for diversions.
For your first DUI charge, an option called diversion may be available to the defendant. Granting diversion to a defendant is within the prosecutor’s discretion, except that diversion is not available for a defendant involved in an accident that caused injury to anyone, including the defendant. A prosecutor may deny diversion for a defendant who has any prior conviction or diversion or high-level test results, as well as a driver who demonstrated aggressive behavior toward the arresting officer.
In a diversion, the defendant stipulates to guilt but is not formally convicted. Under an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor, the defendant accepts responsibility for the violation and agrees not to consume alcohol or violate any laws for a year. The defendant typically also agrees to the following conditions:
If the defendant complies with all the conditions of the diversion for a year, the charges will be dismissed. Diversion is not a conviction; however, it is considered if the defendant receives a subsequent DUI charge.
A diversion does not result in criminal suspension of driving privileges, although the defendant may still have driving privileges suspended in the administrative proceeding that is separate from the criminal proceeding.
As demonstrated by the preceding discussion, the criminal penalty consequences for a first offense DUI conviction in Kansas are significant. That reason alone is sufficient to justify retaining a skillful lawyer to fight against your first DUI charge. However, a DUI conviction has a serious impact on your life beyond the potential criminal penalties, which makes retaining an attorney even more essential.
A DUI conviction on your record likely means that your insurance rates will increase. It also can affect your employment and housing opportunities. Those impacts can be even more significant over the long term than the criminal penalties.
With an experienced DUI defense lawyer representing you, the chances of a getting result that is more favorable than a conviction improve considerably. Your attorney knows the local courts and prosecutors, including practices and policies relating to DUI convictions. Depending on the facts of the case, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a diversion or plea agreement that minimizes the impacts of the charge on your life and your driving record.
If you plead guilty or attempt to negotiate through the process on your own, the penalties and consequences can be severe. For any Kansas DUI charge, being represented by a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney gives you the best chance of getting through the process with the least possible negative impact.
From our offices in Topeka and Lawrence, our experienced DUI defense attorneys at Sloan Law Firm assist clients throughout Kansas. We invite you to contact us by calling (785) 357-6311 or using our online contact form.