How Long After An Accident Can I Be Charged With A DUI?

After an accident, you might be surprised to hear that authorities can charge you with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. But how long after an accident can they charge you with a DUI? This article answers this question and helps you better understand your rights if you were in an accident and the authorities subsequently charged and arrested you on suspicion of DUI.   

What is DUI? 

DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, and other controlled substances. It is considered a driving offense in all states. 

Most law enforcers can charge you with driving offenses when your blood test or breathalyzer shows you driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. However, you can also be charged with DUI in some states, even if your BAC is below .08%. This is particularly true if the officers see you driving dangerously or erratically. 

DUI accident charges can also be felonies or misdemeanors. Misdemeanor DUI includes first-time offenders. Depending on the state, however, it can escalate to a felony under the following circumstances: 

  • There was or were prior DUI conviction (s) 
  • Excessively high BAC 
  • Transporting children under the influence 
  • Serious injuries or death to another person while driving 

Knowing these differences between a misdemeanor and felony DUI is crucial since it’s related to the timeline of when the authorities can charge you with the driving offense. 

What Is The Statute Of Limitations For DUI? 

The statute of limitations is a law that bars prosecution after a certain amount of time has passed. Statutes of limitation differ depending on the severity and circumstances and on state laws, too. For example, the statute of limitations in California can rely on whether the DUI is a felony or a misdemeanor. 

The statute of limitations for misdemeanor DUI is one year. Therefore, authorities can only file DUI charges within a year after the accident. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations for felony DUI is three years. This means that people charged with felony DUI could still face legal repercussions within three years after the accident occurred.  

Most crimes, including DUIs, have a statute of limitations that vary by state. This is under the rationale that as time passes, witnesses may forget or be unable to give reliable testimonies, evidence may be lost or contaminated, and memories of the events may fade. 

Why Are Most DUIs Related To Accidents? 

DUIs can be a massive cause of accidents. That’s because many accidents are usually the result of alcohol intoxication. It’s no secret that alcohol impairs your ability to drive safely. Alcohol and other intoxicants slow down your reflexes and make concentrating harder on the road.  

As mentioned, when you get into an accident and a police officer suspects you’re driving under the influence, they will need to prove you were intoxicated before issuing a DUI citation. If the test confirms you are, the officer may assume that this impaired your judgment and led to reckless driving. You may be arrested on the spot if such happens. In some states, the authorities can confiscate your license immediately. 

On the other hand, you can be lucky enough and not get arrested immediately. However, this does not mean you’re free from getting a DUI after an accident. You still have to be careful because you might not know if the other party involved in the accident will press charges against you for the crash. 

Even law enforcement can always choose to file incident-related reports to a filing deputy at a district attorney’s office. After this report, the DA can start criminal prosecution against you. They can rely on the severity of injuries suffered by either party to determine if they will file a DUI charge after an accident. 

Do I Need A Lawyer In Cases Of DUI-Related Accidents? 

You might wonder if you need a lawyer in DUI-related cases. The answer is it’s the first thing you should do. That’s because you may be immediately facing charges related to the accident, or there’s always the possibility that someone will file it after some time. 

A lawyer can also help establish facts that can save you time, money, and hassle down the road. They can do this by looking at evidence such as photos and eyewitness accounts of what happened during the accident that law enforcement failed to see. It may seem inconvenient now, but consulting with legal counsel can make all the difference in how your case plays out. 


DUIs can be severe, resulting in fines, license suspension or revocation, and jail time. So whether you are currently facing charges or not, speaking to an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights is essential. 

Author: June McGown