A conviction for drinking and driving may not result in a long jail sentence, particularly for first offenses. But the judge has the power to impose strict penalties nevertheless. Among the most impactful ways a DUI sentence can affect your life is the loss of your driver’s license.

In New Jersey, how long you could lose your license for depends on your prior record and what level the police claim your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, was at the time of your arrest. For instance, a first DUI offense will cost you your license for three months if your BAC was measured at .08 percent to .10 percent, but goes up to between seven months and a year if your BAC was above .10 percent.

On a second offense, the suspension becomes much more strict. Anyone convicted of DUI with a prior DUI on their record faces about two years of not being able to drive legally. Then on a third offense, the defendant could lose their license for about 10 years.

It is important to remember that once the suspension is up, your license is not automatically renewed. The driver must apply to the motor vehicle department and pay a $100 fee to get it back. Otherwise, his or her license is still considered to be suspended, and he or she risks being charged with a crime if he or she drives anyway.

This is one of the important services that a DUI defense attorney provides. In cases where a dismissal or not guilty verdict is likely, an experienced attorney may be able to reach a plea deal, reducing the possible sentence against the defendant. This could include eliminating the driver’s license suspension, or at least reducing its length.