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 convictionIn 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 ViolatorsMany 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 SystemsMost 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 ForfeitureHabitual 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 Alabama 90 days no no no Alaska 90 days after 30 days (1) yes yes Arizona 90 days after 30 days (1) yes yes Arkansas 120 days yes (1) yes yes California 4 months after 30 days (1) yes yes Colorado 3 months yes (1) yes no Connecticut 90 days yes (1) yes no Delaware 3 months no yes no D.C. 2-90 days yes (1) yes no Florida 6 months after 30 days (1) yes yes Georgia 1 year yes (1) yes yes Hawaii 3 months after 30 days (1) yes no Idaho 90 days after 30 days (1) yes no Illinois 3 months after 30 days (1) yes yes Indiana 180 days after 30 days (1) yes yes Iowa 180 days after 90 days (1) yes no Kansas 30 days no yes no Kentucky no not applicable yes yes Louisiana 90 days after 30 days (1) yes yes Maine 90 days yes (1) yes yes Maryland 45 days yes (1) yes no Massachusetts 90 days no yes yes Michigan no not applicable yes yes Minnesota 90 days after 15 days (1) yes yes Mississippi 90 days no yes yes Missouri 30 days no yes yes Montana no not applicable yes yes Nebraska 90 days after 30 days (1) yes no Nevada 90 days after 45 days (1) yes no New Hampshire 6 months no yes no New Jersey no not applicable yes no New Mexico 90 days after 30 days (1) yes no New York variable (2) yes (1) yes yes North Carolina 30 days after 10 days (1) yes yes North Dakota 91 days after 30 days (1) yes yes Ohio 90 days after 15 days (1) yes yes Oklahoma 180 days yes (1) yes yes Oregon 90 days after 30 days (1) yes yes Pennsylvania no not applicable yes yes Rhode Island no not applicable yes yes South Carolina no not applicable yes yes South Dakota no not applicable no no Tennessee no not applicable yes yes Texas 90 days yes (1) yes yes
Utah 90 days no yes no
Vermont 90 days no no yes Virginia 7 days no yes yes Washington 90 days after 30 days (1) yes yes West Virginia 6 months after 30 days 1 yes no Wisconsin 6 months yes (1) yes yes Wyoming 90 days yes (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.
- DUI & DWI Law:
- DUI-DWI Penalties
Laws & Penalties DUI & DWI Penalties: Chart of US State Laws
By Michael M. Wechsler |
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