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DUI Laws: Drinking and Driving


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Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a major public safety issue.

Drinking and driving, or drugged driving, greatly increases the chances of collisions, serious injury, and death. 

Penalties and consequences for DUI, or DWI, are harsh and include:

  • Suspended driver’s license. 
  • Heavy fines.
  • Jail time.
  • Community service. 
  • Higher insurance rates. 
  • SR-22 insurance. (FR-44 in Florida).
  • Ignition interlock devices. 
  • Drug and alcohol counselling.
  • Restricted driving privileges. 
  • Loss of employment. 
  • Vehicle impoundment.
  • House arrest.
  • Drug and alcohol testing. 
  • DUI school. 
  • License plate confiscation. 

If someone is killed as the result of you drinking and driving, you’ll likely be going to jail for manslaughter. 

The solution is simple: don’t drink and drive. 

DUI Limits by State

All states have a maximum legal BAC (blood alcohol content) level of .08%. The state of Utah has a BAC level of .05%. 

Operating a vehicle with a BAC level of .08% will result in a DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), or OUI (operating under the influence).

Maximum BAC levels vary depending on the age of the driver and the type of vehicle being operated. 

Zero Tolerance laws cover the DUI limits and penalties for drivers under 21 years old. 

Drivers of commercial vehicles have a BAC limit of .04%. 

Note that while these represent the limits for DUI, you can still receive harsh penalties for driving recklessly or causing accidents with ANY amount of alcohol in your system.

All states also have an Implied Consent law, which states that if you refuse to accept a breathalyzer test when under the suspicion of driving under the influence, your license will be revoked. 

See the chart below for BAC limits in each state.

StateMaximum BAC LevelZero Tolerance BAC Limit (Under 21)Enhanced Penalty BAC Limit
New Hampshire0.08%0.02%0.18%
New Jersey0.08%0.01%0.10%
New Mexico0.08%0.02%0.16%
New York0.08%0.02%0.18%
North Carolina0.08%0.00%0.15%
North Dakota0.08%0.02%0.18%
Rhode Island0.08%0.02%0.15%
South Carolina0.08%0.02%0.16%
South Dakota0.08%0.02%0.17%
Washington DC0.08%0.00%0.15%
West Virginia0.08%0.02%0.15%

First Offense DUI Penalties by State

Committing a DUI carries some harsh penalties. These penalties become more severe for higher BAC levels, DUI-involved accidents, and repeat offenses. 

See the chart below for first offense penalties for standard DUI for drivers at least 21 years old in each state.

Penalties are greater for drivers with higher BAC levels and underage drivers.  

StateMinimum Jail TimeFinesMinimum License SuspensionIgnition Interlock Device
AlabamaNone$600 to $2,10090 DaysNo
Alaska72 hours$1,50090 daysYes
Arizona24 hours$25090 to 360 daysYes
Arkansas24 hours to 1 year$150 to $1,0006 monthsYes
California4 days to 6 months$1,400 to $2,60030 days to 10 monthsYes, in some counties
ColoradoUp to 1 yearUp to $1,0009 monthsNo
Connecticut2 days up to 6 months$500 to $1,0001 yearNo
DelawareUp to 6 months$500 to $1,15001 to 2 yearsNo
Florida6 to 9 months$500 to $2,000180 days to 1 yearYes
Georgia24 hours to 1 year$300 to $1,000Up to 1 yearNo
HawaiiNone$150 to $1,00090 daysNo
IdahoUp to 6 monthsUp to $1,00090 to 180 daysNo
IllinoisUp to 1 yearUp to $2,5001 yearYes
Indiana60 days to 1 year$500 to $5,000Up to 2 yearsNo
Iowa48 hours up to 1 year$625 to $1,200180 daysYes
Kansas48 hour $750 to $1,00030 daysYes
KentuckyNone$600 to $2,10090 daysNo
Louisiana2 days to 6 months$1,00090 daysDiscretionary
Maine30 days$50090 daysNo
Maryland2 months to 1 yearUp to $1,0006 monthsNo
MassachusettsUp to 30 months$500 to $5,0001 yearNo
MichiganUp to 93 daysFrom $100 to $500Up to 6 monthsDiscretionary
MinnesotaUp to 90 days$1,000Up to 90 daysYes
MississippiUp to 48 hours$250 to $1,00090 daysNo
MissouriUp to 6 monthsUp to $50030 daysDiscretionary
Montana2 days to 6 months$300 to $1,0006 monthsDiscretionary
Nebraska7 to 60 daysUp to $500Up to 60 daysNo
Nevada2 days to 6 months$400 to $1,00090 daysDiscretionary
New HampshireNone$500 to $1,2006 monthsNo
New JerseyUp to 30 days$250 to $5003 months to 1 yearDiscretionary
New MexicoUp to 90 daysUp to $500Up to 1 yearYes
New YorkNone$500 to $1,0006 monthsYes
North Carolina24 hours to 1 year$20060 days to 1 yearNo
North DakotaNone$500 to $75091 to 180 daysNo
Ohio3 days to 6 months$250 to $1,0006 months to 3 yearsNo
Oklahoma5 days to 1 yearUp to $1,00030 daysNo
Oregon2 days$1,000 to $6,2501 yearYes
Rhode IslandUp to 1 year$100 to $5002 to 18 monthsNo
South Carolina48 hours to 90 days$400 to $1,0006 monthsNo
South DakotaUp to 1 year$1,00030 days to 1 yearNo
Tennessee48 hours up to 11 months$350 to $1,5001 yearYes
Texas3 to 180 daysUp to $2,00090 to 365 daysNo
Utah48 hours $700120 daysNo
VermontUp to 2 yearsUp to $75090 daysNo
Virginia5 days$2501 yearYes
Washington24 hours to 1 year$865.50 to $5,00090 days to 1 yearYes
Washington DCUp to 90 days$300 to $1,1006 monthsNo
West VirginiaUp to 6 months$100 to $1,00015 to 45 daysDiscretionary
WisconsinNone$150 to $3006 to 9 monthsNo
WyomingUp to 6 monthsUp to $75090 daysYes

Dangers of Drinking & Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol severely reduces your ability to safely operate a vehicle. 

When your take drugs or alcohol, you:

  • Slow your reaction time.
  • Impair your judgement
  • Are more willing to take risks. 
  • Reduce your vision. 
  • Dull your reflexes

If you will be drinking or taking drugs, don’t drive. Instead:

  • Get a designated driver for the night. 
  • Call a Taxi, an Uber, or a Lfyt.
  • Get a hotel room or spend the night. 

The risks and consequences of drinking and driving are not worth it. 

Knowing Your Limits

DUI and the dangers of driving under the influence apply to more than just alcohol. The same effects can be caused by:

  • Alcohol.
  • Marijuana.
  • Over the counter medicine. 
  • Prescription medicine. 
  • Illegal drugs. 

If you take any sort of substance that lowers your ability to drive, don’t get behind the wheel. 

If you will be drinking or taking drugs, you need to know that the only thing that can lower your BAC levels or level of intoxication is time. 

The body eliminates the contents of about the equivalent of 1 alcoholic drink per hour. 

1 drink can be:

  • One 12 ounce beer with an ABV of about 5%.
  • One 5 ounce glass of wine with an ABV of about 12%.
  • One 1.5 ounce shot of liquor with an ABV of about 40%.

If you drink more or consume more than 1 drink per hour, your body will need more time to sober up

The effects of alcohol and drugs can also depend on a person’s:

  • Weight. 
  • Tolerance. 
  • Whether or not they’ve eaten.
  • How much sleep they’ve gotten. 

Implied Consent Laws: What Do They Mean?

Drinking and driving is a serious risk to public safety, accounting for at least 30% of all traffic fatalities in the United States. 

Alcohol impairs judgment, reaction time, and coordination, making it difficult to operate a vehicle safely. 

Despite decades of education campaigns and tougher laws, many drivers continue to make the mistake of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. 

Due to the severity of drinking and driving, states have implemented implied consent laws as part of their overall DUI laws. 

These laws are meant to make it easier to get suspected drunk or intoxicated drivers off of the road. 

We’ll go over implied consent laws, how they work, and what they mean to you. 

What is the Implied Consent Law?

Implied consent laws state that drivers give their consent to chemical tests such as breathalyzers, and blood or urine tests when they get behind the wheel of a car. 

This means that if an officer has reasonable suspicion that someone is driving while intoxicated, they can request a test without needing a warrant. 

Refusal to take the test can result in automatic penalties and even jail time. 

It’s important to note that states vary in the penalties they impose for refusing a test, and some states allow harsher punishments than others. 

In many states, the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test are basically the same as being convicted of a DUI. 

In addition, it is also important to be aware of your state’s laws regarding implied consent as these can change over time. 

When Does Implied Consent Come into Play?

Implied consent laws come into play when a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated. 

This could be due to: 

  • Erratic driving. 
  • The odor of alcohol on your breath. 
  • Slurred speech. 
  • Any other signs of intoxication. 

When an officer pulls you over for suspicion of drunk driving and requests a test, you must comply with the officer’s request. 

Refusing to take the test puts you at risk of harsh penalties.

When did I agree to implied consent?

You may be wondering how implied consent can be valid when you can’t remember really agreeing to it. 

The fact is, implied consent is built in as a precondition to getting a driver’s license and operating a vehicle on public roads.

Simply by being a legal driver, you have agreed to the implied consent. 

If you don’t consent, your only real option is to not get behind a wheel and drive.  

Penalties For Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

If you refuse to take a breathalyzer, blood or urine test when pulled over for suspicion of DUI/DWI, you will face an automatic penalty. 

This usually involves automatic administrative suspension of your driver’s license and fines, even if you aren’t ultimately found guilty of DUI/DWI. 

In general, penalties for refusing to take a breathalyzer, or other chemical test, are strictly administrative.

In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that punishments for refusal cannot be criminal. 

However, there are still a handful of states that have criminal punishments for refusing to test. 

At the very least, you can expect a driver’s license suspension

These are usually added to the overall punishment if convicted of criminal DUI/DWI.

It is important to note that if you do choose to refuse a breathalyzer test, the officer may still arrest you on the suspicion of drunk driving. 

The evidence of your refusal may also be used against you in court. 

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