Laws & Penalties DUI & DWI Penalties: Chart of US State Laws

  1. 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.

    Habitual Violators

    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.

    Vehicle Forfeiture

    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



    StateALR SuspensionDrive while suspendedInterlock optionVehicle forfeiture
    Alabama90 daysnonono
    Alaska90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Arizona90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Arkansas120 daysyes (1)yesyes
    California4 monthsafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Colorado3 monthsyes (1)yesno
    Connecticut90 daysyes (1)yesno
    Delaware3 monthsnoyesno
    D.C.2-90 daysyes (1)yesno
    Florida6 monthsafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Georgia1 yearyes (1)yesyes
    Hawaii3 monthsafter 30 days (1)yesno
    Idaho90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesno
    Illinois3 monthsafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Indiana180 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Iowa180 daysafter 90 days (1)yesno
    Kansas30 daysnoyesno
    Kentuckynonot applicableyesyes
    Louisiana90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Maine90 daysyes (1)yesyes
    Maryland45 daysyes (1)yesno
    Massachusetts90 daysnoyesyes
    Michigannonot applicableyesyes
    Minnesota90 daysafter 15 days (1)yesyes
    Mississippi90 daysnoyesyes
    Missouri30 daysnoyesyes
    Montananonot applicableyesyes
    Nebraska90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesno
    Nevada90 daysafter 45 days (1)yesno
    New Hampshire6 monthsnoyesno
    New Jerseynonot applicableyesno
    New Mexico90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesno
    New Yorkvariable (2)yes (1)yesyes
    North Carolina30 daysafter 10 days (1)yesyes
    North Dakota91 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Ohio90 daysafter 15 days (1)yesyes
    Oklahoma180 daysyes (1)yesyes
    Oregon90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    Pennsylvanianonot applicableyesyes
    Rhode Islandnonot applicableyesyes
    South Carolinanonot applicableyesyes
    South Dakotanonot applicablenono
    Tennesseenonot applicableyesyes
    Texas90 daysyes (1)yesyes
    Utah90 daysnoyesno
    Vermont90 daysnonoyes
    Virginia7 daysnoyesyes
    Washington90 daysafter 30 days (1)yesyes
    West Virginia6 monthsafter 30 days 1yesno
    Wisconsin6 monthsyes (1)yesyes
    Wyoming90 daysyes (1)yesno
    Notes

    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.
    DUI & DWI Law:
    DUI-DWI Penalties

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    Michael M. Wechsler

    thelawprofessor
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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