For the past five years, Mississippi lawmakers have sought to reform and strengthen the state's DUI laws. These efforts include a penalty scheme that exacts harsher punishment for repeat offenders in addition to other directives to encourage the use of ignition interlock systems instead of license suspension. Mississippi lawmakers also encourage expungement and non-adjudication options for first-time offenders to focus on rehabilitation instead of retribution. Since the implementation of the new DUI laws, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has given Mississippi a 4.5 out 5.0 rating, which is a high mark demonstrating Mississippi's focus on DUI prevention.
Fourth Offense DUI
Another addition is that Mississippi introduced a penalty scheme for fourth-time DUI offenders. A fourth DUI conviction is classified as a felony for the purposes of sentencing. These penalties are harsh, with a goal of punishing and deterring the individual from offending once again. A defendant who is convicted of a DUI offense for the fourth time must pay $3,000-$10,000 in fines, excluding court costs, spend two to 10 years in jail, endure driver's license suspension for the full period of incarceration, and after incarceration, the defendant must obtain an ignition-interlock-restricted license for 10 years. It is evident that lawmakers placed an emphasis on punishment and deterrence considering the severity of the fourth offense penalty.
Interlock System Instead of a Suspended License
It was 2014 that brought about one of the most significant changes of ignition interlock devices. Judges adjudicating DUI cases could choose to order interlock devices in the offender's car instead of suspending their license. First and subsequent offenders can be eligible. At the most basic level, the device functions as a normal Breathalyzer. After a person blows into the mouthpiece, the device will measure the alcohol in a person's body. If the calculated amount is over the legal limit, the device will lock the vehicle's ignition. The person has another opportunity to start the vehicle at a later time. Not only must the person complete the test to start the car, but also, the device may require testing while the car is in motion. At random times, when the car is in motion, the device may alert the driver to test his or her alcohol level. Mississippi is one of 42 states that have instituted the ignition interlock system for DUI offenders.
Expungement and Non-Adjudication
An option has now been added that gives first-time offenders the opportunity for expungement or non-adjudication after the first DUI. Non-adjudication is similar to expunction, but operates for defendants to avoid the initial guilty verdict. In this instance, the court does not give the final judgement about the case. Instead, the person who is facing the guilty conviction is placed on probation, on a rehabilitation program, or community service without adjudication of guilt. First-timers are eligible for non-adjudication if they are a private driver, have had no prior non-adjudication, must not have had any prior DUI convictions, must provide justification as to why non-adjudication is appropriate, and completed all court-imposed conditions. For expungement, the conviction can be removed after five years of meeting all conditions. The blood alcohol leading up to the charge must be below 0.16 with a chemical test confirming that fact.
Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI attorney with years of experience defending DUI cases. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney. Attorney Ferguson is well-versed in DUI defense strategies. Attorney Ferguson understands the importance of putting the charge behind you and ensuring that you are informed of all possible consequences. Call us now for a consultation.
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