Skip to Content

States That Are the Least and Most Strict With DUI Charges


New York motorists might be surprised to learn that their state is moderately lenient when it comes to driving under the influence. In a recent study, WalletHub examined the laws and penalties for driving while impaired in each state and found that they vary greatly between states.

Some of the most common consequences of being convicted of DUI include the installation of an ignition interlock device, driver’s license suspension and jail time. In 24 states, the consumer finance website noted that individuals must install an ignition interlock device the first time that they are detained for DUI. Fourteen states only require this after the first DUI if the individual has a BAC of .015 or higher. Furthermore, six states never require it while seven only require it after the second DUI. First-time alcohol-impaired drivers can expect to spend an average of at least one day in jail, and second-time DUI drivers can expect at least 21 days. Alcohol assessment, treatment or both are required in 37 states.

The most lenient state is South Dakota, which has no minimum sentence for first- or second-time DUI convictions. Other lenient jurisdictions include Montana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The most strict state is Arizona, which requires first-time DUI drivers to spend at least 10 days in jail. In addition, the state impounds their vehicles. Second-time alcohol-impaired drivers have to spend at least 90 days in jail. Other strict states include Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, Alaska, Virginia, West Virginia and Connecticut. New York is in the middle but closer to being lenient than strict, along with Massachusetts, North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and California.

Drivers who are charged with DUI, whether it is their first, second or third time, may ask for public defenders or retain private attorneys to help them avoid harsh consequences. In some cases, an agreement struck with the prosecutor could entail the defendant entering a plea of guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a reduced penalty.