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A feature of American law is that it's difficult to make bold general statements about requirements and penalties. They vary from federal to state law and differ from state to state. But it is safe to say that it is pretty much always bad news when a drunk driver is stopped and charged, across the country.
The punishment for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) varies from state to state, and depends on whether it's a first or subsequent offense. As you can see, even the charge's name is not uniform. Rest assured, however, that it's a hassle to deal with a charge wherever you are, and that in some states you'll really feel the pain.
Driving Drunk State to State
Only Wisconsin makes a first-time DUI a civil infraction. The 49 other states all consider driving drunk a criminal offense, which can be penalized with jail time, probation, mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous meeting attendance or other treatment, abstention, testing, license suspension, and more.
Some states -- like Florida -- automatically suspend your license for 6 months when you are charged with a DUI and refuse to take a test, making an accusation a big deal to manage even if you aren't guilty.
In many places it is only when the case is resolved that you can you drive again, and then only if you are found not guilty after trial or the charge is somehow dismissed. And all states uniformly consider the legal limit for intoxication a blood alcohol content level of .08.
States With Jail Time for First-Time Offenders
Still, the range in severity of punishments for those found guilty is quite wide. Arizona, Tennessee, and Georgia require first-time offenders to serve jail time. Other states allow for probation as an alternative because they recognize that drunk driving offenses are not limited to a conventionally criminal class.
Accused of a DUI?
If you or someone you know has been accused of drunk driving, or any other criminal charge, don't delay. Speak to a defense attorney today. Whether you are guilty or innocent, your lawyer's job is to minimize negative consequences. Get help. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.