DUI in Delaware

If you are arrested for DUI in Delaware, it will trigger a court case, where you'll face fines, jail time and other penalties, and a DMV Administrative Hearing, which may imperil your driving privileges.

The Delaware Office of Highway Safety has mandated that DUI enforcement is a priority in Delaware, and this has included the implementation of checkpoints as a deterrent.

You may be pulled over and charged with one of the following offenses if an officer thinks that you are driving while impaired:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both
  • Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater within 4 hours of driving
  • If under 21, driving with a BAC of .02 or greater

Delaware DUI Penalties

Court Fines Potential Jail Time License Suspension
1st Conviction $230-1,150 60 days - 6 months
1 year*
2nd Conviction $575-2,300 60 days - 1.5 years 1.5 years - 2.5 years
3rd Conviction $1000-3000 1 year - 2 years
2 years -3 years
4th Conviction $2000-6000 2 years - 5 years To be determined by the court

*Suspension time may be reduced under a first time offender program

Two Prosecution Theories

Historically Delaware has prosecuted DUI cases under an impairment theory. In other words, the officer has judged your physical or mental ability to drive has been impaired through drug or alcohol consumption. The officer bases his or her judgment on driving patterns, sobriety test performance, your physical appearance, and blood alcohol levels, if available.

Delaware also prosecutes according to per se laws which state that a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is beyond the legal DUI limit. It does not matter whether there is any evidence of impairment; it is solely a matter of body chemistry.

Criminal Court Repercussions and Penalties

If you are a first time offender, convicted in Delaware, you face fines of up to $1,150 and possible imprisonment of up to six months. You will also be expected to complete a DUI education course at your own expense. Charges may be dismissed under the following conditions:

  • No more than three moving violations within the past two years
  • No other DUI convictions
  • No personal injury accidents on record
  • BAC of .20 or less
  • Current driving license
  • Completion of any assigned probation
  • Electing for an ignition interlock device

Penalties increase with additional convictions. If convicted for a 2nd time, you will face possible fines up to $2,300 and potential jail time of up to 1.5 years. A 3rd conviction can become a felony if it occurs within five years of previous convictions. A 4th DUI in Delaware is a definite felony. You face a fine of $2,000 to $6,000 and two to five years in prison. At least six months of your prison sentence absolutely must be served, and cannot be suspended in any way.

Chemical Testing and Implied Consent Laws

Under Delaware state law, any licensed person operating a motor vehicle automatically gives his or her consent to an approved test (blood, breath, or urine) for the purposes of showing intoxication. Any driver refusing to take an intoxication test (except for the Preliminary Breath Test) is subject to license revocation for one to two years.

Blood tests must be administered by a doctor, nurse, or other trained person.

DMV Administrative Hearing Repercussions

If you have been arrested for DUI in Delaware, you must schedule a DMV Administrative Hearing within 15 days. If you fail to do so, your license will be automatically suspended.

In addition to any court-imposed penalties, the DMV may revoke your license for three months on a first offense, or one year if you refused to have your alcohol level tested. You will also be required to take a DUI education course and will be required to serve at least a six month suspension after your revoked license is reinstated.

Under-21 DUI in Delaware

Delaware has a Zero Tolerance policy for DUI arrestees under 21 with a blood alcohol count of 0.02 per cent or higher. You will lose your license automatically for 2 months on a first offense, more for subsequent offenses. If you don't have a license you can be fined $200 for the first offense.

Additionally, if you are under 21 and caught with alcohol, regardless of whether you're anywhere near a car, you will automatically lose your license for one to six months. If you don't have a license, you'll be fined at least $100.

Under-21s also face stricter penalties for DUI. If your blood alcohol is more than 0.1 per cent, you could face up to a year in prison on the first offense.

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