Look Back Laws

What does Look Back Laws mean?

Drivers who operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or over the legal limit of 0.08% can be arrested and charged with DUI. Drivers can also be arrested and charged for DUI if the prosecution can prove they were not able to safely able to operate their vehicle, regardless of the percentage of alcohol in their blood.

But what happens when a driver is arrested a second or third time for a DUI within a specified time period? Does the state consider it their first, second, or third DUI?

The length of time that a previous DUI offense remains on a driver’s driving record and can be used by the state to add penalties or increase the severity of the fines, penalties, or jail time, is referred to as the “look- back period” or “wash-out period.”

For example, in some states, if your second or third DUI is too soon after your first or second DUI conviction, your conviction can be upgraded from to an aggravated drunk driving misdemeanor or even a felony DUI. The laws can vary substantially by state so it’s important to talk to a DUI lawyer immediately if you have been arrested for a second or third DUI within your state’s wash-out period.

When does the look-back or wash-out period begin?

When does the wash-out period start? As mentioned above, state laws vary. For example, some states have a look back period that is five years (Rhode Island, Oregon, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Hawaii, Delaware, Colorado, Alabama, and Florida (second offense)). Other states have a seven year look-back period including Washington, North Dakota, Arizona, and Colorado (third offense). And others have a ten year look back period (Texas, Wyoming, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Utah Tennessee, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Nevada, Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, Connecticut, California, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida (third offense)).

Additionally, most DUI look back periods begin and conclude on the date the person was arrested for the DUI, not the date that they were convicted. For example, if someone was arrested on Jan. 10, 2002, in a state that had a ten year look-back period, and then arrested again in March of 2012, the second drunk driving offense would be treated as the first because the ten year look-back period would have ended.

Why do they have look-back laws?

The goal of DUI laws is to reduce the incidence of driving under the influence and to protect drivers. States also realize there needs to be a balance between appropriate punishment and securing the rights of the convicted driver. With this in mind, each state has established what they believe are suitable periods of time to identify “repeat” drunk drivers while avoiding needlessly harsh DUI consequences.

Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about your DUI arrest, your state’s look-back laws, and whether you will be charged with a first, second, or third DUI after your DUI arrest.

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Drunk Driving Law Attorneys near Ashburn VA

Ervin Kibria PLLC

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500 N. Washington Street, Ste. 203
Alexandria, VA 22314

Steve Duckett Attorney at Law

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10605 Judicial Drive Suite 250
Fairfax, VA 22030

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