States with Toughest DUI Penalties

10,228 people lost their lives in 2010 on account of drunk driving. State lawmakers try to tackle this issue with strict DUI laws and penalties. Sometimes states will experience spikes in DUI fatalities, accidents, and injuries, and lawmakers will respond with a crackdown on DUI offenders and pass stricter laws and add harsher punishments. The following is a snapshot of the states with the toughest DUI penalties in the nation.


Arizona made some big changes to their DUI laws on January 1, 2012. Some may be surprised to find out that if you are charged with your first DUI (non-extreme) in Arizona, you are not entitled to a jury trial.

Work release in Arizona increased to 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. Work release is a program where a person is permitted to be released from jail but only long enough to fulfill employment or studies, and a strict curfew is implemented to ensure that these privileges are very limited.

Arizona has a graduated penalty system based on BAC. A driver with a BAC above .15 can be charged with Extreme DUI, and if the driver’s BAC exceeds .20 then they can be charged with Super Extreme DUI. A Super Extreme DUI has a minimum jail sentence of 45 days, compared to just one day for a basic DUI charge.

A first time offender is often required to use an ignition interlock device for at least 6 months. For a first DUI, the fines can include a base fine of $250, an Arizona DUI Surcharge of $200, an Arizona Xtra DUI Assessment of $500, a Prison Construction Assessment of $500, and the additional required maintenance fees of the use of the ignition interlock device.

Maricopa County, Arizona operates male and female chain gangs, and now has a new anti-DUI chain gain made up of inmates serving sentences for DUI after entering the county illegally. The chain gangs wear pink shirts and clean the downtown Phoenix area.


A first time DUI offender in Georgia must spend 24 hours in jail, and may ultimately face up to a year in jail. The fines range from $600 to $1,000. Mandatory DUI School and mandatory alcohol evaluation can be ordered, the driver’s license can be suspended by the court for 12 months, and 40 hours of community service may be required.


Florida charges drivers with higher blood alcohol levels with tougher penalties. A first-time DUI offender with a BAL above .15 is required to use an ignition interlock device for 6 months, pay up to $2,000 in fines, and spend a maximum of 9 months in jail. Any first-time DUI offender can have their license suspended for up to one year, and can be required to complete 50 hours of community service.

What Are California’s DUI Penalties for Multiple Convictions?

Bobby Brown has been arrested for suspicion of DUI, which is his second arrest for DUI in the San Fernando Valley in six months. California’s DUI penalties often include fines, jail time, license suspension, and alcohol treatment programs.

For the first DUI charge, Brown was placed on three years of summary probation and ordered to complete a three-month alcohol education program. This is typical of California DUI penalties, which will usually require three years of informal probation, a fine up to $2,000, a period of license suspension, and a requirement of a 4-month alcohol class for a first DUI conviction.

Brown’s first DUI was in Florida in 1996, but California has a ten year “look back” period, which means the Courts will review only this time period for determining your punishment. Since Brown’s 1996 DUI was over ten years ago, his arrest for DUI in March is counted as his first.

A second-time DUI in California can face a two year license suspension, mandatory jail time up to 60 months, and an 18-month alcohol class.

A third DUI in California can be penalized with a three year driver’s license suspension, an 18 month alcohol class, and mandatory jail time of at least 120 days.