A DUI, or the functional equivalents in some states known as DWI, OUI, etc., is not a mere traffic violation — it is a moderately serious criminal offense. Multiple DUIs, or a DUI combined with an accident, can even result in felony charges. Even a first-offense DUI with no accident involved will still likely result in a variety of penalties, including the obligation to complete a DUI class.
In addition to DUI classes, a DUI conviction or guilty plea could (and often does) result in the following penalties:
- Jail time
- Court costs
- Suspension of your driving privileges for a given length of time
- Impoundment of your vehicle (you might have to pay a fine to get your vehicle back, or you might even lose your vehicle permanently)
- Mandatory installment of an ignition interlock system on your car so that you will have to pass a breathalyzer test before you can even start your car
- A certain number of hours of required community service — you might be required to prepare meals at a soup kitchen for 40 hours total, for example.
What are DUI Classes?
DUI classes are court-ordered programs that you are required to complete as part of the penalty for a DUI conviction. You have to pay for these classes yourself, and they are not cheap — the average cost for a first offense class is several hundred dollars. Second offense classes take longer to complete and cost more, and it just keeps getting worse as the number of offenses increases.
What to Expect
A DUI class typically includes the following basic elements:
An individual assessment
This assessment is designed to determine the extent of your alcohol, drug or DUI problem, and it may be used to determine how many hours of classes you will be required to attend. It is at least as diagnostic as it is punitive.
DUI education classes
These classes focus on how alcohol and other intoxicants (marijuana, intoxicating prescription drugs, etc.) affect your driving, the consequences of a DUI/DWI conviction, and strategies for avoiding driving while under the influence of intoxicants. Coursework should help you:
- Take greater responsibility for your future behavior;
- Eliminate or drastically reduce your use of intoxicants for recreational purposes;
- Avoid relapses by making healthier lifestyle choices;
- Devise strategies to avoid driving under the influence of intoxicants (this may require adjustments in both your social activities and your friends and associates).
Many DUI classes include a follow-up interview that assesses your success in meeting program goals and serves as a “capstone” review of all of the strategies you have learned.
How DUI Classes Can Help You Regain Your Driving Privileges
In most states, DUI classes are used as an incentive by requiring you to complete them in order to restore your driving privileges. If you are lucky, an ignition interlock device will be installed on your vehicle and you will have to complete a DUI class (and receive a Certificate of Completion) in order to have the device removed.
Remember, the clock will be ticking from the moment that your license suspension goes into effect, and you will be required to successfully complete your DUI class within a specified period of time. In some cases, failure to complete DUI classes on time will result not only in failure to restore your driving privileges, but a warrant for your arrest that will apply even if you never drive again.
If You Were Arrested for DUI in Another State
If you were arrested for DUI in a state other than the state that issued your driver’s license, the arresting state cannot suspend your license. If Alabama issued your license, for example, but you were arrested in Florida, Florida cannot suspend your Alabama license. It can, however, prohibit you from driving in Florida.
Florida will also utilize the Driver License Compact to notify Alabama of your offense, and Alabama will penalize you based on Alabama law, not Florida law. Almost every state is a member of the Driver License Compact.
Duration of DUI Classes
The rules on how many hours of classes you have to take to restore your driving privileges vary from state to state, and they also depend on factors such as:
- How many (if any) previous DUI or intoxicant-related convictions or guilty pleas you have been subjected to in the past;
- The results of the substance abuse assessment you will probably be required to undergo before you begin classes;
- Whether you need restricted license (to drive to work or school, for example); and
- Other aspects of your case.
First-offense DUI class requirements range from 12 hours to 26 hours of total coursework, depending on the state. Due to the constantly changing nature of these requirements, this range might be outdated by the time you read this article.
Second and further offenses can drastically affect the duration of the DUI classes you are required to take. In some cases, classes can last as long as two and a half years — more than enough time to earn a community college degree. Check the laws of your own state for details.
How to Find DUI Classes in Your State
Most states maintain a database of DUI classes which can be easily found on their websites. At times you might also find classes online but be careful as some of them might not be approved by your state. If you do come across one, always check with your state to ensure that they are approved. Some states might also not allow online courses and you will be required to attend a class in person.
Online DUI Classes
As mentioned above, most but not all states allow you to take DUI classes online. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, some states that did not allow online classes may have become more flexible. The advantages of online classes are numerous:
- Classes are not so difficult to attend. After all, if you’re not allowed to drive at all, how do you travel to the class site?
- Timing is typically flexible, so that your classes do not interfere with your ability to work (so that you can earn money to pay fines and court costs).
- You can receive a Certificate of Completion by download and either keep it online or print it out at home. Your Certificate of Completion allows you to prove to the court that you actually completed the DUI class requirement. You will also need this certificate to have your driver’s license reinstated.
At least until the Covid-19 crisis, the following states required approval before allowing you to take online DUI classes: Arkansas, California Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Naturally, the best advice concerning DUI classes is not to drive while intoxicated, so that you won’t be sentenced to DUI classes in the first place. Other than that obvious advice, you should also consider retaining a lawyer to defend you, seeking out online classes should a DUI class become necessary, and diligently completing class requirements as soon as possible.