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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.
There's no good time to get a DUI. But there may not be a worse time to get one than when you're on probation. If you were lucky enough to avoid jail for a prior offense, being charged or convicted for drunk driving could mean time behind bars.
Here's a look at the possible penalties if you get a DUI while on probation.
All probation sentences come with conditions, like performing community service, meeting with your probation officer, and appearing in court during requested times. Depending on the underlying offense, some probations terms may require you to avoid certain people and places, or refraining from using drugs or alcohol. And a condition of just about every probation sentence is to refrain from breaking the law. In almost all cases, a DUI conviction will count as a violation of the terms of your probation.
In most cases, if you are accused of violating your probation, you will be given a probation hearing, during which a judge will hear your case to decide whether you violated any terms or conditions of your probation. The prosecuting attorney will need to prove a violation occurred by a "preponderance of the evidence," which means that it was more likely than not that you did what you are accused of doing. (Keep in mind this standard only applies to the probation hearing -- if you are charged with a DUI, prosecutors in that case must meet the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in order to convict.)
A DUI conviction or guilty plea would almost definitely meet the "preponderance of the evidence" standard. But if you've only been charged, the judge may review the available evidence in the DUI case to make a determination depending on the strength of the case.
Just because you violated your probation does not automatically mean you will be sent to jail. Probation officers and judges have a variety of options available during sentencing. For instance, a probation officer could issue a warning before reporting the violation, and a judge could add more time to the probation period, or impose additional fines, counseling, or treatment programs.
But it is possible that if you are charged or convicted of a DUI while on probation, a judge may order you to serve a brief period of time in jail, or require you to serve the time allotted on your original sentence. If you've been charged with DUI while on probation, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately.