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California DUI Laws are Not the Harshest, but also Not the Most Lenient in U.S.

Every state has its own unique set of laws concerning driving under the influence. While some states can be fairly lenient on DUI drivers, other states can be much harsher. This past August, WalletHub released a study that looked at which state had the strictest DUI laws in the country.

The study looked at a number of different metrics when determining which laws were the most severe. These metrics included the minimum jail time for a first and second conviction, when a DUI is considered a felony, how long the look-back period is, if there are additional penalties if a driver has a high BAC, what the minimum fine is, if there is a penalty for child endangerment, if there is a mandatory ignition interlock device requirement and how long the driver must have the lock for, if a driver will have his or her license administratively suspended, if there is mandatory alcohol abuse assessment or treatment, whether or not the vehicle is impounded, how much a driver's insurance increases, whether there is a “‘no-refusal' initiative for rapid search warrants for sobriety testing,” whether the state uses sobriety checkpoints, and if the state has other penalties not previously listed.

The top ten states that were found to have the most severe DUI laws were Arizona, Georgia, Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Connecticut, Utah, Delaware, and West Virginia. Several of these states have mandatory jail time if a driver is convicted, even if it is the first offense. For example, a driver convicted of driving under the influence in Arizona can face up to 10 days behind bars for his or her first DUI and 90 days for a second conviction.

The ten places that WalletHub determined had the most lenient laws were Mississippi, Vermont, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Idaho, North Dakota, Ohio, the District of Columbia, and South Dakota. Unlike the states with more strict laws, most of these states do not have a minimum jail sentence requirement. Thus, if a driver is convicted of a first offense in South Dakota he or she will likely not be subject to a mandatory number of days behind bars.

Some of WalletHub's key findings included that “[a]ll but six states can automatically suspend the license of someone arrested for DUI, before any court involvement.” Only 12% of states did not suspend a driver's license for a DUI offense. The study also determined that “88% of states require offenders to equip their vehicles with Ignition Interlock devices after DUI.” In addition, in 84% of states DUI offenses remain on a criminal record for at least six years. However, in 5 states they remain for life.

California fell right in the middle of the pack, ranking at number 21. The Penalties for a First Time DUI offense in this state can include: 48 hours in jail, a fine of $2,500, license suspension for at least six months, having to install an ignition interlock device for 5 months, and being required to attend a DUI class for a period of time. If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of John A. Campanella today.

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I went to my first Sacramento DUI conference that year and listened to great DUI attorneys like Ed Kuwatch AKA, “Fast Eddie” and Lawrence Taylor who motivated me to study and practice in this area of law.

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