The Emotional Effects of a DUI

It must feel like the world has fallen on you.  What are my friends going to think?  Will it be in the newspaper?  Will I lose my job?  What about my license? Will I go to jail?

If you are asking yourself this, take a deep breathe.  You, are in fact, normal.

Just as there are 7 stages of grief, there are psychologically 7 stages of a DUI.  The purpose of this post is to introduce you to the normal cycle of emotions one goes through after a DUI arrest from the perspective of a lawyer who has dealt with thousands of people who have been the same situation.



Your initial reaction to being charged with a DUI is normally one of numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the situation at some level, in order to hide yourself from the reality. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for hours, days or even weeks.


As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of emotional pain. Although it can be excruciating and almost unbearable, this is something that you will survive.  No one has ever died from a DUI arrest alone.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do or should have done. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.


Frustration gives way to anger.  Perhaps you read a police report or the affidavit of probable cause that is in total opposition to your firm memory and conclude that the Officer or Trooper is lying.  You may fell like lashing out and lay unwarranted blame elsewhere such as close loved ones. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion but you need to do so in a constructive way.

You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just make it go away”)


Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection could possibly overtake you. This is a normal stage, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of the consequences of a DUI conviction and this depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did or didn’t do, and focus on the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.


As you start to adjust to life, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.  then comes court and it can flush all back in again.


As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by this situation. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life with an end game and stated goal of minimizing or eliminating the consequences.


During this, the last of the seven stages in this model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your DUI arrest. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness, release or “giving up”. Given the totality of the circumstances you have experienced, you may feel that you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this event. But you will find a way forward.

You will find hope.  That hope comes with finding and trusting the highest skilled professional and technically sound attorney available who has the ability, the reputation, the knowledge and the experience to help minimize or eliminate the consequences of a DUI.  We are that attorney for you.

Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

One response to “The Emotional Effects of a DUI”

  • Shawn Boekel says:

    At first I was mad at myself and embarrassed I now see that it was an eye opener to my alcohol problem my health was deteriorating doctors were telling me to stop and now I have health problems because of it so now I’m thankful it happened it could have saved my life and someone else’s my life is getting back together and my health is getting better little by little I hope this helps someone else

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