What State Has the Harshest DUI Laws?

  • The Fee Is Free Unless You Win®.
  • America's Largest Injury Law Firm™
  • Protecting Families Since 1988
  • 20 Billion+ Won
  • 1,000+ Lawyers Nationwide

Free Case Evaluation

Tell us about your situation so we can get started fighting for you. We tailor each case to meet our clients' needs.
Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances. ©2024 Morgan and Morgan, P.A. All rights reserved.
Our results speak for themselves

The attorneys featured above are licensed in Florida. For a full list of attorneys in your state please visit our attorney page.

What State Has the Harshest DUI Laws?

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is a plague on society. Thousands of people die in the U.S. every year due to accidents involving inebriated drivers.

Because driving under the influence is so lethal, every state has strict DUI laws to punish and dissuade offenders. These laws differ significantly by state.

Each state has different definitions of what constitutes a DUI and what penalties offenders should receive. Those differences will have a significant effect on the consequences they face.

Unfortunately, conviction by the state isn’t the only consequence of a DUI. Intoxicated drivers often cause car accidents. In the worst-case scenario, these accidents can cause severe injuries or even death.

If you’ve suffered a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you need help from an expert legal professional. Contact the knowledgeable DUI attorneys at Morgan & Morgan immediately to schedule a free case evaluation.

“Harsh” Is a Matter of Definition

Depending on your standards, multiple states could qualify as having the harshest DUI laws in the country.

Some states have fairly lax penalties for DUI, while others have extremely harsh sentences. Whether the laws seem harsh to you will often depend on your unique perspective and circumstances.

What State Has the Harshest DUI Laws in Terms of BAC?

Every state defines a DUI based on the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when they’re pulled over. The majority of states define the legal limit for BAC as 0.08. If you’re below that number while operating a vehicle, you’re below the legal limit and therefore aren’t violating the law.

One state, Utah, sets the BAC limit at 0.05. This means that you can have approximately one less drink before being legally drunk while driving a car in Utah.

Some states have enhanced penalties if your BAC is too high. Typically, these enhanced penalties kick in at approximately 0.15 BAC. However, New Jersey tacks on enhanced penalties at 0.10, meaning there’s almost no range between a simple DUI and an enhanced DUI.

What State Has the Harshest DUI Laws in Terms of Jail Time?

Surprisingly, most state DUI laws are somewhat lenient with jail time for first-time offenders. The highest minimum jail is only ten days, and a judge may suspend the sentence in some states.

However, if you receive a second conviction for a DUI, the differences in sentencing become more pronounced. The harshest state for minimum jail time after a second conviction is West Virginia, where offenders face at least 180 days of jail time.

Which State Has the Harshest DUI Laws in Terms of Fines?

Jail time isn’t the only punishment you might receive if you’re convicted of a DUI. In most places, you’ll also receive a sizable fine. While the average fine is only a few hundred dollars, it can be much higher, depending on the state.

The state with the highest fine for first-time offenders is Alaska. There, you’ll be fined a minimum of $1,500 the first time you break DUI laws—and that doesn’t include court or DMV fees.

California is similarly expensive, but for different reasons. The fine in California is approximately $400, which is close to the national average. However, California charges additional assessments that technically aren’t fines. These additional fees cost almost $2,000 more, arguably making California the most expensive state for DUI offenses.

Texas is also in the running for the steepest fine after a first-time DUI. While there’s no minimum fine in The Lone Star State, the maximum fine is $2,000. This means that if you’re convicted of driving under the influence, the amount you’ll pay is entirely up to the discretion of the judge overseeing your sentencing.

What State Has the Harshest License Suspension Rules for a DUI?

Almost every state will suspend your license after you’re convicted of a DUI. But much like other penalties, the length of that suspension varies widely based on individual state laws.

The longest required suspension is in West Virginia. Following your first conviction in West Virginia, your license will be suspended for one year. There’s no flexibility in this suspension period, which is well above the national average for license suspension timeframes for first-time offenders.

Scroll down for more

How it works

It's easy to get started.
The Fee Is Free™. Only pay if we win.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

  • Step 1

    your claim

    With a free case evaluation, submitting your case is easy with Morgan & Morgan.

  • Step 2

    We take

    Our dedicated team gets to work investigating your claim.

  • Step 3

    We fight
    for you

    If we take on the case, our team fights to get you the results you deserve.

Client success
stories that inspire and drive change

Explore over 55,000 5-star reviews and 800 client testimonials to discover why people trust Morgan & Morgan.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances. Based on Select nationwide reviews

  • Video thumbnail for 5l3q2e67j8
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for yfe952tcop
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for z1bqwg9hkl
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for s5nb3hnvkv
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for t4elibxene
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for 5nr9efxqj3
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for e8s1x6u5jp
    Wistia video play button


Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • Why DUI Rules Are So Harsh?

    There’s a simple reason that nearly every state has such harsh DUI rules: DUIs take lives.

    Driving under the influence is one of the most common causes of car accidents resulting in fatalities. State governments have a powerful interest in protecting the lives of their citizens.

    To that end, many states also add enhancements to manslaughter or murder convictions when the actor was driving drunk. These enhancements usually result in additional mandatory years of prison time added to the minimum sentence for the corresponding crime.

  • What to Do if You’re Arrested for a DUI?

    If you’re convicted of a DUI, the consequences can potentially haunt you for the rest of your life. You want to avoid this fate at all costs, particularly if you’re innocent of the crime.

    If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, the first thing you should do is hire a criminal defense lawyer with experience handling these types of cases. Even if you’re guilty, your attorney may be able to negotiate lesser charges or lower penalties if it’s your first offense and nobody was hurt.

    Hiring an attorney is even more important if you didn’t commit the crime or there are extenuating circumstances at play.

    Your attorney must act quickly to collect evidence proving your innocence. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to collect evidence, and the more likely it becomes that you’ll be punished for something you didn’t do.

  • What to Do if You’re Injured in a Car Accident With a Drunk Driver?

    All automobile accidents are scary, but accidents with drunk drivers are more frightening than most. When somebody is under the influence of alcohol, their reflexes become stunted and their reaction time slows. Consequently, there’s a good chance the accident will be more serious than a similar collision with a sober driver.

    For these reasons, the first thing you should do after an accident with an intoxicated driver is call 911 and request emergency medical attention and police assistance. You want to get evaluated for injuries as quickly as possible while also establishing an official record that the other driver was intoxicated.

    The next call you make should be to Morgan and Morgan. You’ll likely have a stack of medical bills, repair quotes, and other expenses shortly after your accident. You weren’t the person who was driving under the influence, so you shouldn’t be responsible for paying those bills out of your own pocket.

    Our attorneys will help you collect the compensation you deserve after a car accident with a drunk driver. We’ll start by investigating the accident scene and documenting evidence that proves the other driver was at fault. A DUI conviction will help your case, but it could take quite a while and isn’t necessary to support your claim.

    With evidence of the fault in hand, we’ll help you file a claim with the appropriate insurance company (based on the fault rules of the state in which the accident occurred). That evidence should be enough for the insurance company to approve your claim.

    After your claim has been approved, we’ll negotiate for a fair settlement that covers all expenses and bills resulting from the accident. We understand that your recovery depends on getting every dollar you need to cover your various expenses, so we never accept lowball offers.

    If difficulties in your case require us to go to trial, you can feel confident knowing that you’re being represented by a successful firm with copious courtroom experience that’s recovered more than $13 billion for its clients since its formation. Our attorneys have an excellent track record at trial and are prepared to fight fiercely to protect your interests.

  • Is Arizona the Toughest State on DUI Offenders?

    According to WalletHub, Arizona has the harshest DUI laws in the country. However, this is a combined rating of all penalties. Individually, each of the penalties the state applies to convicted felons is high but rarely the highest in that category.

  • Do Harsh DUI Laws Prevent People From Driving While Intoxicated?

    There is some correlation between harsh DUI laws and reductions in drunk driving, but strict laws alone don’t always lead to lower rates. DUI penalties, social programs, and awareness campaigns all combine to help decrease incidents of driving under the influence.

  • Are DUI Laws Different for Minors?

    In most states, minors are guilty of a DUI if they have almost any amount of alcohol in their system. The majority of states limit minors to 0.02 BAC, while a small number don’t allow minors to have any detectable amount of alcohol in their blood.

  • If Somebody Has Been Drinking, Are They at Fault for an Accident?

    Not necessarily. If somebody’s BAC is high enough to be guilty of a DUI, they’re at least partially at fault if they get into a car accident. However, if they have a lower BAC, fault is usually determined without taking alcohol consumption into account.

    Furthermore, many states have liability rules that make fault more or less irrelevant. If you get into an accident in one of these states, it might not matter that the other driver was intoxicated.

    Your attorney can explain those laws to you and ensure you get fair compensation from whatever party is responsible.

  • How Much Will a Morgan & Morgan Attorney Cost Me?

    At Morgan and Morgan, we take all cases on a contingency basis. This means that we only get paid if we succeed in winning compensation in your personal injury case. Since our pay is always a percentage of what we secure for you, we’ll always work hard to get you the most money possible.

  • Harsh DUI Laws Can’t Protect You After a Car Accident, but an Experienced Attorney Can

    harshest DUI laws in the country, those laws can’t help you if you’ve suffered an injury in a car accident with a drunk driver. You need assistance from an experienced DUI lawyer at Morgan & Morgan.

    Our caring and capable attorneys will help you acquire the resources you need to recover quickly from your injuries. Contact us today to schedule a no-cost consultation and case review if you’ve been hurt in a car accident with a drunk driver.

  • Scroll down for more Load More