DUI Penalties by State – Complete Overview and FAQs


Driving under the influence not only puts you and other people in danger, but it also can earn you a hefty fine. Residents in some states may even have to serve jail time or do community service. Repeating offenders risk losing the license for good, too. What DUI punishment you face for driving while impaired depends on where you live. That’s why it’s essential to know the DUI penalties by state. Below, we will go over the fines, jail time, and license suspension you’re facing for DUI in every state. Discover the worst state to get a DUI alongside the typical punishments for your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offense.

Penalties for Drunk Driving Across the US

A DUI is a severe offense, regardless of where you make it. Still, in some states, the financial burden of driving under the influence can be much higher. In our first table, you can see the DUI punishments by state for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offenses. Repeating offenders naturally face more severe fines than first-time offenders. In this section, we’ll focus on cash DUI penalties. Further along, however, we’ll also cover the possible jail, license restrictions, and Ignition Interlock Device (IID) DUI punishments.

DUI Fines by State

States With the Highest Fines for Drunk Driving

Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Texas have the worst DUI fines by state, or when it comes to the 1st offense, in any case. In Alaska, the minimum fine is a hefty $1,500, and for severe cases, drivers can get hit with up to a $25,000 penalty. Arizona fines the first DUI with $1,250 to at least $3,250, while in Massachusetts, the penalties go between $500 and $5,000. In Texas, first-time offenders face a fine of up to $2,000 or up to $4,000 if their BAC is 0.15% or greater.

Alaska, Arizona, D.C., Iowa, Massachusetts, and New York lead the way in the strictest drunk driving penalties by state for second-time offenders. Alaska’s maximum fine of $25,000 is the highest here, but its minimum penalty of $3,000 shouldn’t be overlooked either. Arizona and D.C. have penalties ranging from $2,500 to at least $4,250 and from $2,000 to $5,000, respectively. Your 2nd DUI can result in a fine between $1,875 and $6,250 in Iowa, and between $600 and $10,000 in Massachusetts. A penalty of between $500 and $750 for their 2nd offense awaits drunk drivers in New York State.

Alaska, D.C., Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon have the worst DUI penalties by state for third-time offenders. In Alaska, a 3rd DUI gets you a fine between $4,000 and $25,000. In D.C., the penalties go up to $10,000, just like in Pennsylvania. A 3rd offense penalty of between $1,000 and $15,000 applies in Massachusetts. A special shout out here goes to Oregon, where the maximum fine can be a stunning $125,000.

States With the Lowest Fines for Drunk Driving

Arkansas, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have the lowest DUI punishment by state for first-time offenders. Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Wyoming lead the list of states with most lenient drunk driving laws for a 2nd DUI. Finally, the lowest punishments for DUI for a 3rd DUI goes to Indiana. Here, drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) of under 0.15% pay up to $500. Colorado, Kentucky, and Rhode Island also have generally low penalties in this category.

Other Significant DUI Penalties by State

Besides a cash fine, most states also impose mandatory jail time, community service, license suspensions, and IIDs. Again, the exact DUI penalty you get depends on where you make the offense. Some jurisdictions have stricter penalties than others.

Drunk Driving Penalties – Jail Time

Below, you can find the DUI laws by state when it comes to jail time imposed on first-time, second-time, and third-time offenders.

DUI Jail Time by State

The most common DUI punishment by state for a 1st offense is either up to one year or up to six months. States like Alabama, Arkansas, and Colorado have these typical penalties. Vermont is the only state where your first DUI can get you up to two years in jail. Wisconsin and New Hampshire don’t have any jail time penalties for drunk driving. In Mississippi, first-time offenders get up to 48 hours in prison.

The situation shifts when we focus on driving while intoxicated penalties for second-time offenders. Here, Hawaii and Nevada have the most lenient DUI laws by state. For the former, the maximum jail time stands at 30 days, while in the latter, it’s 180 days. As for strict states, we have New York (up to four years), Pennsylvania (up to five years), and South Carolina (up to three years).

In Idaho, Oklahoma, and Texas, third-time offenders can get up to 10 years in jail. These are also the strictest penalties for drunk driving in the US. Most of the other states have maximum jail time of up to one or five years. Arizona is an exception with its lowest drunk driving penalties in the category. Here, the jail time on the table is 90 days or at least 180 days, depending on the circumstances.

DUI Penalties by State – License Suspension and IID

Besides cash fines for drunk driving and jail time, many states also impose license suspensions and IIDs. The table below will give you the toughest DUI laws by state in this regard.

DUI License Suspensions and IID by State

The typical drinking and driving penalties for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUIs are one year, three years, and five years. The jurisdictions with the harshest DUI punishments by state impose permanent license restrictions. Such states are Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. In some of them, it’s possible to get your license back after a specific number of years has passed.

As for the IID punishment for DUI, it’s an option in some states and unlikely in others. The IDD, typically, is required as long as the license restriction applies. The most common duration of this type of penalty for drunk driving, however, lasts between one and three years.

DUI Frequently Asked Questions

Does DUI carry from state to state?

Not necessarily, but very likely. DUI arrests don’t go on your record, but DUI convictions do. So, if you’re facing a judge in another state, they will treat you as a previous offender. It doesn’t matter whether the prior offense happened within their jurisdiction.

Also, in case your license is suspended, the DMV will add your details in the National Driver Register database. Before issuing a permit, state authorities always check this list. So regardless of the different DUI penalties by state, they won’t issue you a new driver’s license if your old one has been revoked in another state.

There are some exceptions where your DUIs affect your possibilities in one state only. However, a past offense is likely to have consequences everywhere you go.

What is the typical punishment for a DUI?

The answer depends on several factors. First, is this your first DUI or not? Second, where did you make the offense? Finally, what are the circumstances and consequences of your actions? 

Typically, your first DUI will result in a cash penalty, alcohol treatment, as well as license restriction and/or suspension. Less than 10% of first-time offenders serve jail time.

Does DUI affect credit score?

Not directly. While not among the factors that impact your credit score, DUI convictions usually result in penalties, fees, and higher insurance premiums. All these can lead to amassing debt, maxing your credit card, or taking out a loan. Each of these will negatively impact your credit history.

How much does your car insurance go up after a DUI?

Depending on your state, your car insurance can increase between 80% and 370% after a DUI conviction. Insurance providers have the right to cancel your current coverage and then boost the prices for a new deal. 

If you are a repeating offender, you can expect a significant increase in your car insurance premium. It usually takes about 10 years before your auto insurance price goes down.

Does a DUI affect buying a car?

To buy a car, in most US states, you need proof of identification, place of residence, and car insurance. While a DUI can revoke your driver’s license, you can use your passport as a valid identification document. So, you can technically purchase a car with a DUI on your record. 

While the drunk driving penalties by state don’t include restrictions on buying cars, there is the issue of mandatory car insurance. Providers will check your records and offer expensive rates when they see the DUI. Meaning, buying a vehicle with a DUI offense on your record is more of a money issue than anything else. Also, you can’t drive a car if your license is suspended.

The Bottom Line

Every US state has its driving while intoxicated laws and penalties. In the states with the strictest DUI laws, multiple offenses can result in you losing your license and hefty fines. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, therefore, it’s essential to know the DUI penalties by state. That way, you’ll know what to expect and prepare for the possible consequences accordingly.

Sources: Nolo.com, DUI Driving Laws by State, Massachusetts Government

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.