All states have 0.08 per se laws which state that when a driver is stopped for cause and his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests at or above 0.08 percent, that person can be arrested/convicted with driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI) or a similarly named charge. Courts generally accept tests of blood, breath or urine to determine BAC. The results of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests may also be accepted as evidence in such cases. In addition, a driver can generally be charged at any BAC level if he or she exhibits loss of normal use of mental or physical faculties because of alcohol or other drugs.

Implied Consent and Administrative License Revocation (ALR)

All states have implied consent laws. Under such laws, by driving on public roads, drivers agree to submit to a test for the presence of alcohol or other drugs if stopped for cause and charged with the offense of impaired driving. Drivers who refuse to take such a test may have their licenses immediately suspended, usually for up to 90 days or longer. Under a procedure known as ALR, an arresting officer may be authorized to immediately take away the license of a driver who refuses to submit to a test or who tests above the BAC limit established by law. Drivers who refuse to submit to a breath or blood test may still be charged with DUI/DWI based on other evidence such as observed erratic driving and physical behavior.

Below are sample penalties that can be the result of being convicted of DUI:

  • Fines
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Jail time
  • License revocation
  • Education course
  • License plate or vehicle impoundment/confiscation
  • Community service
  • Others
    • Attend a Victim Impact Panel
    • Higher insurance premiums
    • Travel restrictions outside of the U.S.
    • Alcohol exclusion laws that may limit medical insurance for DUI injuries

Click here to see the Drunk Driving laws in your state.

Drivers Under Age 21- Zero Tolerance Laws

The rules are different for young drivers. Now in effect in all states, “zero tolerance” laws make it illegal for persons under 21 to drive with alcohol in their blood.  These laws feature maximum BAC limits ranging from 0.00 to 0.02 percent.

Statistics have proven that the likelihood of an alcohol-related crash increases when the driver is a teen. As a result of the National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995, all states had zero tolerance laws in place by 1998.