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Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information.
A drunk driving accident can be terrifying. And if no one was injured, you're right to breathe a sigh of relief. But just because you didn't kill anyone doesn't mean you're totally off the hook. Killing a mailbox instead can still be costly, and may even land you in jail.
Here's what you need to know about a DUI with property damage.
A DUI is already expensive. And adding damaged property to the list will only make it cost more. If you cause damage to private or public property in a drunk driving accident, prosecutors can add the cost of repairs into your charges.
Known legally as restitution, perpetrators may have to pay money to the victims of their crimes. The payment is intended to restore victims to the financial (and physical) status they were at prior to the commission of the crime. So if you killed a mailbox, plowed through a fence, hit a parked car or a building, or somehow damaged the roadway, you could be on the hook for repairing or replacing any property damaged during your DUI.
Depending on the state, a DUI resulting in property damage can either mean more charges or more penalties. In some states, DUI with property damage is a separate offense, or makes a normal DUI an elevated or aggravated DUI. And in others it can turn a misdemeanor into a felony. Either way, you're looking at a longer possible jail sentence, more community service, and possibly longer time with a suspended license or an ignition interlock device in your car.
And whatever you do, don't leave the scene of the accident. It may sound like a good idea at the time when you don't want to get into any trouble, but it is really a good way to get yourself in even deeper. Hit-and-run and leaving the scenes charges can carry hefty fines and penalties and will only make a bad situation worse.
Your best bet if you've been charged with any kind of DUI is to consult an attorney -- fast. Most experienced DUI attorneys will discuss your case for free.