It wasn’t too long ago when the infamous DUI charge was considered a pretty bad traffic ticket and usually punishable by a nice slap on the wrist. However, once people started paying closer attention to the statistics, it was clear that more harsh DUI punishments were necessary. In 2015, there were over 10,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States, which accounted for almost 1/3 of all traffic-related deaths.
So naturally, states started beefing up their legislature in attempts to weed out the drunk drivers. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Fathers Against Drunk Driving (FADD) were both huge contributors to the lobbying of congress with resulted in more strict rules. In the last couple of decades, fines have begun to rise, mandatory jail times have increased, driver’s license suspensions have increased in duration, and police and judges now have much more authority than they previously did.
Not only has alcohol changed the landscape for DUI cases, but drug-related DUIs have also become much more common. With the legalization of marijuana, we’ve seen drug-related accidents skyrocket in most states (not just the states where the drug is legal). This too has sparked a huge increase in arrests and successful prosecutions for DUIs.
DUIs were once a pesky inconvenience, but being arrest for a DUI in today’s world can almost end a person – especially if a person has been convicted of multiple DUI offenses within a certain amount of time deemed by the state. The fines are now so significant, that those that are unemployed or less fortunate may end up serving a long jail sentence if they cannot pay the entire fine. Some states allow their convicted to work off the fines or pay them over a long period of time, however. Because criminal records are generally public records, many jails have begun to publish information on those arrested for crimes such as DUIs. In some states, this could result in people losing their jobs and being publicly humiliated. Suspended licenses are another obstacle for those that must have reliable transportation in order to get to work. Or even worse, those that drive vehicles for their job. As you’ll see below, a 2nd offense of a DUI can even be a felony charge. If you’re convicted of a felony, you’re a felon for life which makes it impossible to vote, difficult to find a decent place to live, difficult to find a good job, and presents many other obstacles.
Since our great country gives each state the authority to make their own laws, some states are much more strict than others. However, almost all states have grown considerably more strict over the years. Below is a list of the 10 most strict states on DUI laws.
The Worst DUI States: Places You Don’t Want To Mess Around In!
#10 – Colorado
Colorado has the reputation for being a very liberal and easy-going state. However, that really only applies to marijuana use while not in a vehicle. When it comes to getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, they’ve got some of the strictest penalties in the country (which is probably good because I wouldn’t want a bunch of drunks driving around those snow-covered mountains).
Upon catching your first DUI charge, you can expect a five day jail sentence, a 90-day suspension of your driver’s license, and up to a grand in fines. Luckily, some may be able to skip out of the more harsh penalties by taking an alcohol safety course and may install an ignition interlock device to avoid the total suspension of their license. However, the course and interlock device aren’t cheap and usually cost over $1,000.
#9 – Delaware
Delaware is another state that carries some very strict penalties for those who drive after over-indulging. Although you won’t likely receive the maximum penalties for your first offense, the potential penalties can be pretty rough. For starters, your first DUI can earn you up to 6 months in jail, a $500-$1,500 fine, and a 12 to 24 month license suspension. If you receive three DUIs within a 5 year period, you will be charged with a felony which could haunt you for life.
#8 – Utah
It’s safe to say that Utah is sick and tired of it’s residents being killed by drunk drivers. Utah now suspends a first-offender’s drivers license for 120 days, hands those convicted a hefty fine, confiscates the driver’s vehicle, and requires a minimum jail sentence of two days in jail for all that are convicted of the offense.
#7 – Connecticut
Connecticut law terms the drunk driving offense as “Operating Under the Influence” or an “OUI”. An OUI in Connecticut is no laughing matter. For 1st-time offenders, the fines aren’t too extreme. A first offense may cost you a pretty penny, but chances are you will skip out of any jail time. However, commit an OUI a second time and you’re screwed. Second-time offenders are handed a minimum of 120 days in the slammer!
#6 – Nebraska
If you get a DUI in this state, it may be a good idea to either quit drinking completely or to move to another state if you think there’s the slightest chance that you may get another DUI. For your first DUI offense in Nebraska, you’re looking at a 90 day license suspension, a $500 fine, and a week in jail. But, here’s the real kicker – if you get caught driving under the influence in the State of Nebraska a second time within 15 years of receiving your first DUI, it will count as you second offense (most states only have a 5 to 7 year period where they look back to your last offense). Second-time offenders get slapped with a 30-day jail sentence.
#5 – Kansas
Even though it seems most all of the roads in the State of Kansas are straight and flat, this state doesn’t think twice about sticking it to drunk drivers. Kansas profits fairly well off of drunk drivers by slapping fines upon fines, upon costs, upon fines on it’s drunk driving criminals. For a first offense in Kansas, you can expect it to cost you at least $2,000 – $3,000 after paying all court costs, fines, reinstatement fees, interlock device costs, etc. You will also get to spend a couple days in the klinker. Do it a second time and your fines rise exponentially, while also receiving a 90 day sentence.
#4 – Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s DUI penalties have consistently grown worse over the last couple of decades. First timers receive a minimum 10 day jail sentence and a 180-day driver’s license suspension. Anybody that receives a consecutive charge within a 10-year period will be charged with a felony.
#3 – Alaska
The state of Alaska puts DUI offenders in a whole world of hurt, beginning with their first offense. First-time offenders get a mandatory three days in jail, license suspension of 90 days, fines, court costs, etc. Getting your license back is also a hell of a process since the state requires that you undergo vision testing, written driver’s tests, and another road test. Get a 2nd DUI (within a 15-year period) and your license will be suspended for an entire year.
#2 – Georgia
Most Georgians that receive a DUI learn their lesson these days. A first DUI offense in the State of Georgia comes with a 10 day minimum jail sentence and a full year driver’s license suspension, and all of the other good stuff such as alcohol classes, tons of fines, etc. Second offenses within a 15-year period receive a 90-day jail sentence and a 3-year license suspension.
#1 – Arizona
The state of Arizona has always taken great pride in being the strictest state when it comes to drunk driving. In fact, Maricopa County had a huge outdoor jail facility just for drunk drivers (often referred to as “Tent City” because inmates were forced to sleep outside in the hot weather in tents).
First time DUI offenses come with a mandatory 10-day jail sentence, at least $1,500 in fines and costs, a 90-day license suspension, possible vehicle confiscation, and more! The state also has a separate DUI classifications termed as “Extreme DUI” and “Super-Extreme DUIs”. These classifications are dependent on blood alcohol content and other factors and could land you up to 90 days in jail for your first offense.