State-by-State DUI Penalties
Not all DUI or DWI laws are created equal. Indeed, each state determines the severity of the crime and possible punishments. In most states it is a serious criminal offense, but in other states a first-time offense is merely a civil infraction. In some states the judge will have discretion on how to enforce punishment, while in others the law calls for mandatory sentences. This chart identifies certain DUI-related criminal and administrative penalties used in each state:
Administrative License Suspension/Revocation (1st/2nd/3rd Offense)
Note. Persons arrested for DUI will be subject to additional criminal law penalties not addressed here — including jail time, fines, and community service. Such criminal penalties are typically more discretionary than those identified in this chart, and are therefore more difficult to accurately predict. Generally speaking, first-time DUI offenders can expect to incur a fine, and face the possibility of jail time. Repeat DUI offenders will incur harsher fines, and will almost certainly be sentenced to a number of days in jail. Penalties will be harsher still if the DUI offender was involved in an accident in which someone else was injured or killed.
Administrative License Suspension/Revocation
The Administrative License Suspension/Revocation penalties indicated here refer to minimum mandatory penalties imposed on drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the state limit for intoxication, or drivers who refuse to submit to BAC testing. Administrative suspension or revocation of a driver’s license is usually carried out by a state agency (such as a Department of Motor Vehicles), distinct from any criminal court penalties. Most states impose harsher penalties for second or third DUI offenses, typically defined as those that occur within five years of a prior DUI offense.
Note: the penalties identified here do not include variations for DUI offenders operating commercial vehicles, or drivers who have violated zero tolerance and enhanced penalty DUI laws. Most states recognize different sanctions for these types of DUI offenses.
Mandatory Alcohol Education and Assessment/Treatment
Alcohol education and treatment/assessment penalties for DUI offenders can include mandatory attendance at DUI prevention programs, and assessment of potential alcohol dependency problems. Such programs are often made conditions of a suspended sentence or probation, meaning that a DUI offender can avoid jail time and payment of hefty fines if he or she completes participation in the program.
Vehicle confiscation penalties allow a motor vehicle department or law enforcement agency to seize a DUI offender’s vehicle. either permanently or for a set period of time. Such penalties typically apply only to repeat DUI offenders, and often the return of the vehicle requires payment of fines and significant administrative costs.
A vehicle ignition interlock breath-testing device measures a vehicle operator’s BAC, and will prevent operation of the vehicle if more than a minimal amount of alcohol is detected (i.e. BAC level of .02). DUI offenders will usually be required to pay the costs of installation, rental, and maintenance of an ignition interlock device.
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State laws differ quite a bit with respect to DUI laws and penalties for offenses, even though all states now conform to the 0.08 percent BAC limit for impaired driving. If you have been charged with a DUI or recently arrested for the offense, make sure you know the law well enough to protect your interests. Better yet, have an experienced DUI lawyer review your case absolutely free .