All states define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime, but specific laws and penalties vary substantially from state to state. Most states have higher penalties for higher BACs.
Administrative license suspensions allow law enforcement to confiscate a driver’s license when he fails a chemical test. 42 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands have some duration of administrative license suspension on the first offense. States may allow limited driving privileges – such as to and from work.
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. 19 states (and 4 California counties) have made ignition interlocks mandatory or highly incentivized for all convicted drunk drivers, even first-time offenders.
Federal programs transfer surface transportation funding to the state DOT or State Highway Safety Office (depending on how the funds are being used) for states that fail to adopt open container and repeat offender laws meeting specific requirements.
Alcohol exclusion laws allow insurance companies to 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 Some states have repealed such laws.
Click here for a list of DUI Penalties.