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Different DUI Policies Across the US

July 27th, 2013 by Andreas Xavier in Public records. Topics:

The regulation of public roadways in the US is left to the state governments, hence the policies that apply to the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs vary around the country. However, there is some consistency across the nation due to the federal government’s ability to influence state governments through financial incentives for enacting regulations that meet certain guidelines. The most significant example of this was the federal government’s decision to withhold a portion of the federal highway funds of any state that did not have a policy in place that made it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater.

The federal government has provided other incentives for other issues, such as enacting regulations against open containers of alcohol being present in a motor vehicle or stiffer penalties for repeat offenders, but they have not been as drastic or universally adopted. As such, the only regulation that is consistent regardless of the state is that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater. The penalties for driving a motor vehicle under the influence consistently include some sort of suspension of the offender’s driving license, but the details of the suspension can vary significantly from state to state.

License Suspension

One difference between states is at what point license suspension begins. Administrative license suspension, a process in which a person’s license is revoked at the time of the supposed infraction instead of at the time of conviction, has been shown to be significantly more effective than sanctions enacted after the conviction and is utilized by 42 states for all DUI offenses. Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota utilize it in some situations, while in Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Tennessee it is never utilized.

Duration of Suspension

The duration of a suspension can vary widely between states and is frequently dependent upon the details of the violation. Most states have a standard for a higher BAC at which a more severe penalty will be imposed. The only states that do not have this are Vermont and Mississippi. Tougher penalties are also common for people who have been previously convicted of a DUI offense. This practice is encouraged by the federal government and there are 27 states that meet the minimum requirements. The requirements include diagnosis and treatment of any alcohol problems, a license suspension of at least one year, and jail time or community service.

Common Ground

One commonality among the penalties imposed by states is that they all utilize ignition interlock devices in some way. These devices force drivers to provide a sample of their breath to prove that they are not under the influence of alcohol before the vehicle can be started. What role these devices play varies greatly between states. In some states they may be mandatory for all convictions, while in others they might only be utilized for high BAC and/or repeat convictions. There are 19 states, as well as a pilot program in California, in which there are significant incentives for even first-time offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed on any vehicles they own or operate.

In order to keep offenders from driving during a license suspension due to a DUI conviction, many states also immobilize, impound or confiscate any vehicles owned by the offender. A few states also include penalties that will result vehicles will being forfeited to the state in some situations. If you want to know more about how states differ with their DUI policies, talk to someone with a masters degree in criminology or criminal justice.


About the author
Andreas co-founded Xavier Media® in 1996 and has since been involved in all kinds of development, marketing and making money online.


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