Look back periods and DUI Law
What Is A Look Back Period and How Does It Relate To DUI Offenses?
A look-back, in legal terms, is the period of time a prior offense can be applied to and enhance the penalties of a new offense.
The number of years varies widely from state to state, from the minimum of 5 years to a maximum of a lifetime. The average look-back period for DUI and other offenses is 10 years, which means that a second offense within 10 years of the first significantly magnifies the penalties you would face if you received a DUI in the past A third offense can go either aggravated misdemeanor or felony, depending on state laws and how the look back period is applied to your offenses and previous arrests.
While the look-back can prevent old offenses from being brought to bear on new ones, DUI convictions are never erased from your criminal or driving record.
Driving Under The Influence (DUI / DWI) and Lookback Period Specifics:
In an ideal world, there wouldn't be a first offense. We all wish we had a time machine to travel back and wipe out our mistakes. With the variances in state-by-state look-backs, though, programming the start and end date of the period is more complicated than it looks.
To begin with, most look-back periods begin and end on an offender's arrest date, not conviction date. So if someone were arrested on June 7, 1995, and arrested a second time on June 17, 2005, the second offense, in most states, would be treated as a first offense, because the look-back of 10 years would have expired.
Of course, the length of time isn't standardized. Here are some state statistics:
- 5 years: Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Florida (2nd offense), Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island
- 6 years: Ohio (but this one is tricky)
- 7 years: Arizona, Colorado (3rd offense), North Dakota, Washington
- 10 years: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida (3rd offense), Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (as of 2010)
- 12 Years: Iowa, Nebraska
- 15 years: District of Columbia
- Lifetime: Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Vermont
With the lifetime look-back in Michigan, any third DUI offense in your life will be charged as a felony, even if it's fifty years after your first arrest. Ohio's six-year look-back applies to the first 3 offenses, which are prosecuted as misdemeanors (fourth is a felony), but in the span of 20 years, you get one more misdemeanor, then the 5th offense is charged as a felony. Illinois' look-back operates in a similar way.
States that bump the third arrest (within the look-back period) up to a felony:
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
In New York and Wyoming, even a second offense might be brought up to felony status. A fourth arrest is almost always a felony, which, in terms of criminal record and penalties, is bad news for an offender in any state in the Union.
Because look-back periods and the penalties associated with repeat offenses vary so widely across state lines, it's ideal to talk to your lawyer ASAP regarding what's-what if you have any prior DUIs on your record.