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A Quick Look at Drunk Driving Laws Across the 50 States

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, DUI/DWI laws across the 50 states, while not uniform, are getting more similar. The current level for a per se violation of DUI/DWI laws is a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. If your blood alcohol is measured at or above this level, no further evidence is needed to convict you of DUI/DWI. In many states, you can be convicted of DUI/DWI at a lower BAC, if other evidence is available such as a failed field sobriety test.

First Penalty: License Revocation or Suspension

License revocation or suspension is usually the first penalty encountered in a DUI prosecution. In fact, in most states, your license will be taken from you before you are convicted of DUI. This is called administrative license revocation and usually occurs when a suspected driver fails or refuses to take a breathalyzer exam. Presently 41 states and the District of Columbia allow administrative license revocation. The time of suspension ranges from seven days in Virginia to one year in Georgia. Of the states that allow administrative license revocation, 40 will consider restoring driving privileges during the suspension period if the driver can prove that the suspension would cause him or her undue hardship. The only states that do not have administrative license revocation yet are Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee.

Mandatory Use of Interlock Devices

One of the newer wrinkles in DUI law is the mandatory use of interlock devices, which require offenders to breathe into a tube before starting their vehicles. If alcohol is detected by the device, the vehicle will not start. Over half of the states require the use of interlock devices for a DUI conviction. In 14 states, even first-time offenders are required to use and pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the interlock devices. Ten states use interlocks for only higher BAC levels (usually .15 or higher) and for repeat offenders. An additional six states require interlocks only for repeat offenders. Twenty-four states presently do not mandatory interlock laws for any DUI/DWI conviction. However, even among the states that do not have mandatory interlock laws, 17 states and the District of Columbia give either the Department of Motor Vehicles or the court the discretion to require them. Only Alabama and South Dakota have no interlock laws of any type.