Drunk driving results in 10,000 deaths, more than one million arrests, and over $40 billion in economic damage each year.
An analysis of the enforcement rules in 50 states and the District of Columbia by WalletHub reveals just which states have the toughest and most lenient enforcement rules on DUIs (driving under the influence), also called DWI (driving while intoxicated).
Arizona — If you’re arrested and convicted of DUI in Arizona, you’ll incur some of the harshest penalties of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A first conviction will land you in jail for a minimum of 10 days, while a second DUI results in at least 90 days in the slammer. A third DUI offense is an automatic felony, and DUI penalties last seven years. Automatic license suspension is 90 days.
Georgia – Not far behind Arizona in terms of strictest DUI enforcement is Georgia, where a first conviction results in at least 10 days of incarceration. A second DUI conviction is a minimum of 90 days in jail. A fourth DUI is an automatic felony, and DUI penalties will hang around for 10 years. Georgia has the toughest license suspension at 365 days.
Alaska – A first-time DUI conviction in Alaska only results in a 3-day jail sentence (minimum), but a second DUI conviction is at least 20 days. DUI is an automatic felony on the third offense, and penalties last for 15 years. Alaska has a 90-day license suspension.
Oklahoma – The third state to mandate a minimum of 10 days in jail for a first-offense DUI conviction is Oklahoma. But a second DUI will land you in jail for a minimum of five days. That may be small consolation, since a DUI is an automatic felony with the second offense. Penalties last for 10 years and driver’s license suspension is 180 days.
South Dakota – If you get convicted of drunk driving in South Dakota, there’s no minimum sentence for either the first or second offense. A third DUI offense is an automatic felony. Penalties last for 10 years and there’s no driver’s license suspension.
District of Columbia – Like South Dakota, the District of Columbia has no minimum sentence for either first or second DUI conviction. DUI also does not become an automatic felony. Penalties last for 15 years and there’s a 90-day license suspension.
North Dakota – While a first DUI conviction in North Dakota has no minimum jail sentence, a second DUI conviction results in a minimum jail stay of 10 days. DUI becomes an automatic felony with the fourth offense, and penalties last seven years. Driver’s license suspension is 30 days.
Pennsylvania – There’s no minimum jail sentence for a first-time DUI conviction in Pennsylvania and conviction #2 results in a minimum of five days in jail. DUI does not become an automatic felony. Penalties last for 10 years and there’s no driver’s license suspension.
It’s also worth noting that Pennsylvania is among eight states with Pre-Trial Diversion programs for first-time offenders. These programs often include alcohol treatment/rehabilitation and are offered as an alternative to prosecution, although eligibility may vary. Besides Pennsylvania, the other states with Pre-Trial Diversion programs are: Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
Combing through the report yields a number of highlights:
- In five states, DUI penalties remain on your record for life: Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Texas and Vermont.
- Alcohol abuse assessment and/or treatment is mandatory after conviction for DUI in 37 states.
- The least amount of minimum jail time, one day, is given to first-time DUI offenders in four states: Arkansas, Montana, North Carolina and Washington.
- Two-day minimum jail sentences for first-time DUI convictions occur in eight states: California, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
- First-time DUI conviction minimum jail sentence of three days: Ohio and Alaska. In Colorado, it’s a 5-day minimum stay in jail, while in Nebraska, it’s a 7-day minimum.
- Second DUI conviction minimum jail time of two days happens in: Alabama, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon. In Vermont, a second DUI conviction is a minimum of 2.5 days in jail.
- A second offense conviction for DUI results in a minimum of five days in jail in these 11 states: Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
- It’s a minimum of seven days in jail for a second DUI conviction in seven states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and Wyoming.
- Nine states have a 10-day minimum jail time for a second DUI conviction: California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Utah.
- New Hampshire requires a 17-day minimum stay in jail for a second DUI conviction, while Alaska holds those convicted for at least 20 days.
- Six states require at least 30 days in jail after being convicted for a second DUI: Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
- A second DUI conviction is at least a 45-day jail stay in Tennessee, while it’s 60 days in Delaware and 90 days in Arizona, Georgia and Kansas.
- Longest minimum jail time for a second DUI conviction is 180 days in West Virginia, followed by 120 days in Connecticut.
A combination of changing societal norms, stiffer state and federal policies, improvements in vehicle engineering for safety and driver/passenger technologies, public education and medical care and trauma services improvements have resulted in a decline in drunk driving deaths since the 1980s.
Interestingly, in 2015, Connecticut passed laws requiring that first-time DUI offenders have an Ignition Interlock Device installed on their vehicles.
Check out the full report for a state-by-state look at DUI enforcement.