Thursday, November 8, 2012

State Drunk Driving Laws

All states define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime, although specific laws and penalties can vary substantially from state to state.

Administrative license suspensions allow law enforcement to confiscate a driver's license when he or she fails a chemical test. Several states grant limited driving privileges – such as driving to and from work – to drivers whose license has been suspended if the driver is able to demonstrate special hardship.

All states have some type of ignition interlock law, in which judges require all or a portion of convicted drunk drivers to install interlocks in their cars. These devices analyze a driver's breath and disable the engine if alcohol is detected.

Federal programs transfer surface transportation funding to the Section 402 highway safety grant program for states that fail to adopt open container and repeat offender laws.

Alcohol exclusion laws let insurance companies deny payment for treatment of drunk drivers' injuries, but they have limited doctors' abilities to diagnose alcohol problems and recommend treatment. Some states have repealed such laws.

Highlights of current state drunk driving laws include the following:

  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  •  have enacted some sort of ignition interlock legislation.
  • 17 states
  •  (and 4 California counties) have made ignition interlocks mandatory or highly incentivized for all convicted drunk drivers, even first-time offenders.
  • 42 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands
  • all have some type of administrative license suspension on the first offense.
  • 48 states, the District of Columbia and Guam
  •  have increased penalties for drunk drivers found guilty of driving with a high BAC (often .15 or higher).

NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on drunk driving laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.

StateInc. Penalty for High BACAdmin. License Susp. on 1st OffenseLimited Driving Privileges During Susp.Ignition InterlocksVehicle and License Plate Sanctions Alcohol Exclusion Laws Limiting Treatment
*Meeting Federal Requirements
Ala..1590 daysMandatory for high BAC (>.15) convictionsYesYesYes
(at judges' disc.)
90 daysAfter 30 daysMandatory for all convictionsVehicle impoundmentYes
Ariz..1590 daysAfter 30 daysMandatory for all convictionsImmobilization or impoundmentYesYesYes
Ark..156 monthsYesMandatory for all convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYes
Calif..154 monthsAfter 30 daysDiscretionary

Mandatory for all convictions in Alameda, Los Angeles, Tulare and Sacramento counties (pilot project)
Impoundment, vehicle confiscationYesYes
Colo..173 monthsYesHighly incentivized for all convictionsYesYes
Conn..1690 daysYesMandatory for all convictionsYes
Del..163 monthsMandatory for high BAC (>.15) and repeat convictionsVehicle sanction and license plate impoundmentYesYes
D.C..20 and .252-90 days or until dispositionYesDiscretionaryYesYes
Fla..206 months for DUBALAfter 30 daysMandatory for high BAC (>.15) convictionsImpoundment, vehicle forfeitureYesYesYes
12 months for refusalAfter 90 days
Ga..151 yearYesMandatory for repeat convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYesYes
GuamFrom .08 to .10YesYes
Hawaii.153 monthsAfter 30 daysMandatory for all convictionsYesYesYes
Idaho.2090 daysAfter 30 daysDiscretionaryYesYesYes
Ill..166 monthsAfter 30 daysMandatory for all convictionsImpoundment, vehicle confiscationYesYes
Ind..15180 daysAfter 30 daysDiscretionaryVehicle confiscationYesYes
Iowa.15180 daysAfter 30 daysDiscretionaryYesYes
Kan..1530 daysMandatory for all convictionsYesYesYes
Ky..1830 - 120 daysYesDiscretionaryImpoundmentYesYesYes
La. 1.15 and .20See footnoteMandatory for all convictionsVehicle confiscationYes
Maine.1590 daysYesDiscretionaryVehicle confiscationYesYes
Md..1545 daysYes, under certain circum-
Mandatory for high BAC (>.15) convictionsYesYes
Mass..20 (applies to ages 17-21)90 daysYesMandatory for repeat convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYesYes
Mich.2.17See footnoteAfter 30 daysMandatory for high BAC convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYesYes
Minn..2090 daysAfter 15 daysMandatory for high BAC and repeat convictionsImpoundment, vehicle confiscation, special plates/
Miss.90 daysDiscretionaryImpoundment, vehicle confiscationYesYes
Mo..1590 daysAfter 30 days
Mandatory for all convictions
(eff. 10/1/13)
Vehicle forfeiture or impoundment (cities w/ 100,000+ allowed to enact ordinance)Yes
Mont..16Mandatory for repeat convictionsImpoundment, vehicle confiscationYesYes
Neb..1590 daysAfter 30 daysMandatory for all convictionsVehicle immobilization, continuous alcohol monitoringYesYesYes
Nev..1890 daysAfter 45 daysDiscretionaryYesYes
N.H..166 monthsMandatory for high BAC convictionsYesYesYes
N.J..10Mandatory for high BAC (>.15) and repeat convictionsYesYesYes
N.M..16 (w/ mand. jail on all offenses)<21: 1="1" br="br" yr.="yr.">>21: 6 mo.Immediately w/ Ignition InterlockMandatory for all convictionsImmobilization of vehicle for driving while revokedYesYes
N.Y..18VariableYesMandatory for all convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYesYes
N.C..1530 daysAfter 10 daysMandatory for high BAC (>.15) and repeat convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYes
N.D..1891 daysAfter 30 daysDiscretionaryVehicle confiscation, license plate removalYesYesYes
M.P.30 days -
<6 months="months" td="td">
Ohio.1790 daysAfter 15 daysDiscretionaryImpoundment, vehicle confiscation or immobilization, restricted platesYesYes
Okla..15180 daysYesMandatory for high BAC (>.15), repeat convictions, and refusalsYesYesYes
Ore..1590 daysAfter 30 daysMandatory for all diversionsYesYes
Pa. 3.16See footnoteMandatory for repeat convictionsYesYesYes
R.I..15Judicial discretion on 3rd or subsequent convictionJudicial discretion on 3rd or subsequent convictionYes
S.C..151 month (for >.15 BAC)YesMandatory for repeat convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYesYes
S.D. 4.17See footnoteYesDiscretionaryYes
Tenn..20Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYes
Texas.1590 days if .08 or greater; 180 days for refusalYesMandatory for repeat convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYesYes
Utah.16120 daysMandatory for all convictionsImpoundmentYesYesYes
Vt.90 daysDiscretionaryImpoundment, vehicle confiscationYesYes
V.I.VariableYesRevoke license plateYesYes
Va..15 and .207 daysMandatory for all convictionsVehicle confiscationYesYes
Wash..1590 daysWith an ignition interlock driver’s licenseMandatory for all convictionsMandatory tow and 12 hour impoundYes
W.Va..156 monthsAfter 30 daysMandatory for high BAC (>.15) and repeat convictionsYesYes
Wis..17, .20 and .256 monthsYesMandatory for high BAC (>.15) and repeat convictionsImpoundment, vehicle seizure/
Wy..1590 daysYesMandatory for high BAC (>.15) and repeat convictionsYes
Total States48 + D.C., 1 Terr.42 + D.C., 2 Terr.36 + D.C., 1 Terr.Mandatory For
All (17)
High BAC (5)
Repeat (6)
High BAC & Repeat (9)

13 + D.C.
Varies39 + D.C., 3 Terr.37 + D.C., 3 Terr.37
1 Louisiana requires a 45 day hard suspension of driving privileges for a second DWI conviction.
2 Michigan has administrative license suspension for for refusal to submit to chemical test.
3 Pennsylvania uses a program called Occupational Limited Licenses (OLL).
4 South Dakota has administrative license suspension for 30 days for refusal to submit to chemical test.

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