You’ve never been in trouble with the law before, so a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) was a major wake-up call, right?
In Pennsylvania, most first-time DUI offenders won’t face jail time. Unless there are aggravating circumstances (like someone was seriously injured or killed), you’ll probably pay a fine, be ordered to go through remedial traffic safety training and be given no more than six months of probation.
For a lot of people, the promise that they won’t spend time in jail is enough to make them willing to plead guilty. That’s not really a great idea. Among other things, that guilty plea goes down on your record and can come back to haunt you if you’re ever in trouble again. However, some people will immediately begin to suffer collateral damage from their plea, including:
1. Military service members
If you value your military career, a drunk driving conviction isn’t something you want to carry with you. Aside from the penalties imposed by the court, you’re automatically subject to whatever disciplinary measure the military decides to use. That can include things like forfeited pay, a reduction in rank, confinement to post and even separation from duty. Even if you’re able to continue your career, you may put yourself permanently at a disadvantage.
2. Licensed professionals
If you’re a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, a teacher or any other kind of professional with a license, you have an obligation to uphold your profession’s integrity and values – and that’s often strictly enforced by the licensing authorities. You may have to submit to anything from rehab to a suspension, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to keep your license.
3. College students
Universities and colleges are far less tolerant of drinking than they once were, and drinking and driving can cause college students to find themselves making a desperate appeal to their school’s student judicial authority. You could lose scholarships, find yourself unable to live on campus or even get dismissed from the school.
Frankly, anybody who is charged with drunk driving should explore their available legal options, even if you are not a member of any of the groups listed above. The stakes are high enough that you’ll never want to assume that pleading guilty is the best route.