3 States Toughest on DUI

Which States Have the Strictest Penalties for Drunk Driving?


According to a study conducted by the financial website WalletHub, penalties for driving under the influence widely vary throughout the country. Some states have extensive lookback periods for repeat offenders (Texas has a lifetime lookback and Alaska is 15 years), and some states have minimum jail sentences on first offenses. 

Driving under the influence (DUI) or Driving while impaired (DWI) is a serious offense in most states that could result in fines, a license suspension, community services, jail, and more. More and more states are using deterrents like the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) to reduce drunk driving recidivism rates.

WalletHub’s research found that the following states were the three toughest on drunk driving:

  1. Arizona
  2. Georgia
  3. Alaska

Arizona has long been recognized as having the strictest drunk driving laws in the country. On a first-time offense, there is a minimum jail sentence of 10 days. Most states have no required jail sentence on a first offense. Utah, however, may change the 2021 rankings after lowering the drinking driving limit to 0.05 in 2020. 

Other states rank high because they automatically consider a 2nd offense DUI a felony, or have additional penalties for a higher blood alcohol content (BAC). In California, for instance, a person could be required to complete a longer alcohol program for a BAC of .15% or higher.

Drunk driving cases are unique because they can trigger an administrative license suspension prior to any criminal court hearing. In the vast majority of states, a person’s driving privileges can be automatically suspended based solely on an arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence. 

The total cost of a first offense DUI can exceed $10,000 after figuring in attorney fees, insurance rate increases, and fines imposed by the court.