At present, a driver whose blood alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) is 0.08% or higher is guilty of a traffic offense for DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated). Virtually all states have zero tolerance laws for DUI/DWI offenses committed by those below the state legal drinking age, which reduces the required BAC level to at or near zero. Below is a state chart defining the penalties and punishments for drunk driving convictions. It will also provide a brief explanation of what types of punishments are generally set forth by law.
Penalties for a DUI or DWI conviction
In general, DUI/DWI can result in large fines, jail or prison, probation or community service, as well as suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license. As expected, repeat offenders are treated more harshly than first-time DUI/DWI offenders.
Administrative License Revocation (ALR)
The majority of states have enacted Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws which allows for an immediate seizure of a vehicle and driver’s license should the operator fail or refuse to take a “field test” using a breathalyzer or other method.
Many states provide for felony penalties for repeat offenders such as the “three strikes law” for three DUI convictions. Once convicted of a habitual defender law, the operator loses many civil rights such as the ability to own weapons, to vote, and loss of driving privileges for a significant duration. Some offenders are permitted to go to “DUI school” to rehabilitate themselves and drive while their license is suspended.
Ignition Interlock Systems
Most states have instituted an ignition interlock system as alternatives to complete suspensions of driving privileges for DUI or DWI convictions. A small device is installed into the convicted operator’s vehicle which requires the driver to blow into the device in order for the ignition to fire and start the car. If the blood alcohol level of the driver is at least .02-.04, the ignition will fail to start the car. These systems are frequently used for those offenders who stand to be rehabilitated but need to drive in order to get to work or for other basic necessities.
Habitual offenders may submit themselves to a forfeiture of their vehicles and a court may order the sale of the operator’s vehicle, even if leased. The proceeds of the sale of the vehicle will first go towards pay secured interests with the remainder to satisfy others.
Conviction, Punishment and Vehicle Forfeiture, State Law Chart
|State||ALR Suspension||Drive while suspended||Interlock option||Vehicle forfeiture|
|Alaska||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Arizona||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|California||4 months||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Florida||6 months||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Hawaii||3 months||after 30 days1||yes||no|
|Idaho||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||no|
|Illinois||3 months||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Indiana||180 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Iowa||180 days||after 90 days1||yes||no|
|Louisiana||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Minnesota||90 days||after 15 days1||yes||yes|
|Nebraska||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||no|
|Nevada||90 days||after 45 days1||yes||no|
|New Hampshire||6 months||no||yes||no|
|New Jersey||no||not applicable||yes||no|
|New Mexico||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||no|
|North Carolina||30 days||after 10 days1||yes||yes|
|North Dakota||91 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Ohio||90 days||after 15 days1||yes||yes|
|Oregon||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|Rhode Island||no||not applicable||yes||yes|
|South Carolina||no||not applicable||yes||yes|
|South Dakota||no||not applicable||no||no|
|Washington||90 days||after 30 days1||yes||yes|
|West Virginia||6 months||after 30 days 1||yes||no|
1: Drivers usually require demonstration of a special hardship to justify restoration of driving privileges during suspension which, if granted, are often restricted.
2: In New York, administrative license suspension lasts until prosecution is completed.