Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Drunk driving has been considered a traffic violation since the turn of the century, but in recent years the penalties for drunk driving in most states have grown much harsher, as a result of the efforts of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), founded in 1980. In every state at a minimum, convicted drunk drivers automatically lose their licenses for a certain amount of time. Some states require short jail terms for first time offenders, and most states require drunk-driving offenders to go through some sort of treatment program.

In addition to the general penalties for drunk driving, many states have specific laws dealing with aspects of drunk driving. The following are some of the various state laws dealing with drunk driving, along with a list of the states that have them:

  • Anti-Plea Bargaining: A policy that prohibits plea-bargaining or reducing an alcohol-related offense to a non-alcohol related offense. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wyoming
  • Child Endangerment: Creates a separate offense or enhances existing DUI/DWI penalties for offenders who drive under the influence with a minor child in the vehicle. Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • Dram Shop: A law that makes liable establishments who sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently cause death or injury to third parties as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  • Felony DUI: Makes drunk driving a felony offense based on the number of previous convictions. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  • High Blood Alcohol Content Laws: Result in increased penalties for driving with blood alcohol concentration of.15 or higher at time of arrest. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin
  • Hospital Blood Alcohol Content Reporting: Authorizes hospital personnel to report blood alcohol test results of drivers involved in crashes to local law enforcement where the results are available as a result of treatment. Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont
  • Increased Penalties for Blood Alcohol Content Refusal: Provides for increased penalties for refusing to take a blood alcohol content test, higher than failing the test would bring. Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, Washington.
  • Mandatory Alcohol Assessment/Treatment: Law that mandates that convicted drunk driving offenders undergo an assessment of alcohol abuse problems and participate in required treatment program. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • Mandatory Jail, Second Offense: Makes a jail term mandatory for a second drunk driving offense. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  • Sobriety Checkpoints: Allows law enforcement officials to establish checkpoints to stop vehicles and examine their drivers for intoxication. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming
  • Social Host: Imposes potential liability on social hosts as a result of their serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently are involved in crashes causing death or injury to third-parties. Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Inside Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties