Most DUI arrests in Delaware are of first offenders. After a third DUI, state law puts the wheels in motion for serious criminal consequences. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) rates Delaware’s DUI laws as among the strongest in the nation. A third DUI offender commits a felony. They must spend at least three months incarcerated, and they may face more, depending on their criminal record and the circumstances of their arrest.

If you have been arrested for a third DUI offense, you need experienced counsel to guide you through the process and ensure that you are not unjustly charged or sentenced.

The Legal Process for Third Offenders

First and second DUI offenses are misdemeanors, but a third offense is a Class G felony. It is more likely that you will need to post bail to be released after your arrest. Your arraignment should occur within 24 hours, barring weekends. At an arraignment, the charges are formally filed, and the defendant is allowed to hear them and enter a plea. Contact an attorney first if at all possible—they can help you with this hearing. Within the next couple of weeks, you can expect a preliminary hearing to establish probable cause for your arrest and charges. It is crucial to have an attorney’s assistance at the preliminary hearing.

DUI offenses carry two types of legal penalties in Delaware: criminal (fines and incarceration) and administrative (loss of license privileges).

Criminal Penalties

The law specifies that a third DUI offender must be sentenced to between one and two years in prison, with a fine of $5,000. The first three months of this sentence cannot be suspended or served in home confinement. They must be spent at Level V supervision—24-hour incarceration.

Sentencing will depend on various factors surrounding the situation, such as the offender’s previous record, the circumstances of the arrest, their blood alcohol level (BAC) at arrest, and their acceptance of responsibility. The court may choose to suspend up to nine months of the sentence if the offender undergoes court-approved substance abuse treatment. This must involve at least 90 days of sobriety, monitored by testing, together with an intensive drug and alcohol treatment program. Where possible, this treatment can begin before or during incarceration.

If the DUI arrest occurred after an accident that caused bodily harm, there will be separate charges to face. Causing injury while driving under the influence gives rise to a charge of vehicular assault. This may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the severity of the injury. Causing a death constitutes vehicular homicide, a felony charge carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 years alone.

Administrative Penalties

A third DUI offense results in the loss of your driver’s license for at least two years, depending on your BAC level:

BAC at arrest Period of license suspension
Under .15 24 months
Between .15 and .20 30 months
Over .20, or after refusal of a chemical test 36 months

See Del. Code § 4177A(a)(3). However, after at least 90 days, it is possible to get driving privileges with an ignition interlock device (IID) under the state’s IID Program. Qualifying for the program requires:

  • Completion of or enrollment in the court-approved drug or alcohol treatment program
  • Installing an IID on any vehicle you own or intend to drive (with notarized consent from other owners)
  • An otherwise valid Delaware driver’s license
  • Proof of insurance

You must pay for installment and leasing of the IID yourself. The IIDs must be calibrated monthly, and keeping the service appointments is required to successfully complete the IID Program. Registering a BAC of over .05 will add to the time you must spend with an IID. You can also fall behind or even lose your IID license for violations such as:

  • Failing to abide by the lease terms
  • Attempting or allowing an attempt to tamper with the IID or bypass the system
  • Driving or attempting to drive without an IID license and registration for the vehicle
  • Violating any sobriety requirements
  • Refusing a random drug or alcohol test by the DMV

You may reduce the time required for your license suspension and regain your full driving privileges earlier if you maintain your IID license, complete your drug/alcohol treatment, and pay all the required fees. Again, the time you can save depends on your BAC:

BAC at arrest Minimum time in the IID Program before reinstatement
Under .15 21 months
Between .15 and .20 27 months
Over .20, or after refusal of a chemical test 33 months

See Del. Code § 4177C(d)(4).

The Help You Need

When the law is specific and severe, what can an attorney do? Everything that’s possible—beginning with your arrest. An experienced DUI attorney knows how to examine the circumstances and determine whether the state can prove that the arrest was actually lawful or whether the charges can stand. Did the officer have probable cause for the stop that led to arrest, or were they fishing for a crime? Did your chemical test results reflect reality? Field breathalyzers can give confused results if the subject ate certain foods or the device was miscalibrated. And if that evidence won’t stand, what other evidence do they have—was your driving really impaired? These are the kind of questions attorneys ask about every case.

Your attorney will not let unjust charges pass without a fight. And when necessary, they will help negotiate a sentence that allows you to recover from this situation as soon as possible. No matter how this happened, don’t let yourself face this alone—you and your loved ones deserve for you to get the help you need. Call (302) 678-8700 today to schedule a free case review with our office.