DUI Laws by State
Every state has drunk driving laws. Most states refer to drunk driving as DUI; some states refer to drunk driving as DWI; still others refer to drunk driving as OUI, OWI, DUII, DWAI, OUIL or OMVI. But no matter what you call it, the consequences are potentially severe: jail, fines, loss of driver's license, required ignition interlock devices, attendance at alcohol education programs, lectures given by MADD, SADD, or RADD, community service or freeway cleanup, increased car insurance rates, a criminal conviction, and more.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have per se laws defining it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a proscribed level, 0.08 percent. Forty-five states permit some offenders to drive only if their vehicles have been equipped with ignition interlocks. These devices analyze a driver's breath and disable the ignition if the driver has been drinking. In 30 states, multiple offenders may forfeit vehicles that are driven while impaired by alcohol.
Forty-three states and Washington D.C. have laws prohibiting the driver, passengers or both from possessing an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
License suspension or revocation traditionally follows conviction for alcohol-impaired driving. Under a procedure called administrative license suspension, licenses are taken before conviction when a driver fails or refuses to take a chemical test. Because administrative license suspension laws are independent of criminal procedures and are invoked right after arrest, they've been found to be more effective than traditional post-conviction sanctions. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have administrative license suspension laws.
Prosecution for drunk driving in every state focuses on four areas: driving patterns, physical appearance, field sobriety tests, and chemical tests (or the refusal to give a breath or blood test, which may show a consciousness of guilt).
Prior drunk driving convictions may impact a current DUI arrest, but the formula will vary from state to state. In some states, the date of the prior arrest will control. In other states, the date of the prior conviction will control.
Because of the threat of loss of federal highway funds, there has been a strong trend to reduce the legal limit for those 21 and older to 0.08% across the country. No one is lobbying on behalf of the impaired driver. However, given the problems associated with alcohol testing technologies, and possible subjective and erratic manner in which drunk driving investigations can be performed in the field, there may be doubts as to whether some DUI arrests and prosecutions are justified.