Which States Have The Harshest DUI Charges?

Getting behind the wheel after a few drinks is a dangerous decision, and there is a federal blood alcohol content limit of 0.08% for drivers over the age of 21 and 0.04% for CDL drivers who are operating a commercial vehicle. However, these federal laws don’t mean that individual states must adhere exactly to these limits — only that they can’t increase the limit to exceed these caps. As such, some states have taken the law even further and imposed hefty consequences for people who choose to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. In fact, some states (see below) allow an individual to be charged with DUI simply for having keys in their pocket while exceeding their legal BAC limit.

A DUI can have lifelong impacts on a driver, even if they are only charged and never found guilty of this criminal act. One of the most important things to remember is that no matter where you are accused of DUI/DWI, hiring an attorney is arguably the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from overly harsh penalties. “Most important,” as in you should be on the phone with an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest — and keep your mouth shut until then.

Some DUI firms have a team of nationwide criminal defense lawyers who are available to help you when you need it most. Like when you are sitting in a holding cell trying to figure out what you should and shouldn’t say to the cops or how to navigate an arraignment for charges you don’t fully understand.

Take a look below to learn about some of the harshest DUI laws in the country, and remember that wherever you are, contacting an attorney should be your top priority after you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated.


in 2017, Utah diverged from federal BAC guidelines and further reduced the limit to 0.05% for legal adults, as well as a zero-tolerance policy for any drivers under the age of 21. This is only one percentage point above the federal limit for CDL drivers, but the state took it a step further: individuals are not allowed to drive, operate, or be in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while exceeding the legal limit. Translation: you can be arrested and charged for DUI if you have car keys in your pocket while drinking.

Once charged, you’ll be facing a minimum of two days of mandatory jail time and a minimum of nearly $1500 in fines, and subsequent DUI convictions continue to increase the penalties. A third DUI in Utah comes with up to five years of mandatory jail time.


Not to be outdone, Arizona adheres to federal BAC guidelines but takes a similarly strict approach to DUI with penalties: ten days of mandatory minimum jail time for a first DUI, fines in excess of $1,250, a mandatory ignition interlock device, alcohol treatment or education, and community service. For these reasons, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has given Arizona a 5 out of 5 score for tough DUI laws.

Much like in Utah, driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a risky decision that can result in years of jail time, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record. If you are ever accused of DUI/DWI, no matter where you are in the country, the best course of action is to immediately contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.


Washington state has some of the harshest DUI laws in the country by hitting drivers in their wallets. As with Arizona, Washington follows federal BAC guidelines but imposes the heftiest fines of all 50 states — up to $5,000 for a first offense, an ignition interlock device that the driver must pay for out of pocket (which can cost between $70 and $100 monthly, plus an installation fee), as well as an automatic 90-day license suspension.

These costs, without even considering the far-reaching social and professional consequences of a DUI conviction, are a perfect example of why it is essential to hire an attorney as soon as possible after being arrested for DUI/DWI. A good attorney will work to get your charges reduced or even dismissed, which can save you thousands of dollars in fines and help you avoid a permanent criminal record.

Things To Remember During a DUI Stop

No matter where you are, there are a few things that you should always remember in the event that you are stopped on suspicion of DUI/DWI.

Stay Respectful and Stay Quiet

“Anything you say can and will be used against you.” When the police are reading you your rights, they are telling you right off the bat that anything you say that can be used against you will be used against you — so keep quiet. You have the right to remain silent.

Just remember that staying silent doesn’t mean being rude. Give your identifying information, but don’t try to make up excuses or talk your way out of the situation. Politely inform the arresting officers that you would like to get a lawyer before you answer any questions.

Get a Lawyer ASAP

Time is of the essence when you are facing DUI/DWI charges. The sooner you can get a lawyer on your side, the better. A good lawyer will work to get the charges against you reduced or even dismissed, save you thousands of dollars in fines, and help you avoid a permanent criminal record.

Suppose you are ever stopped on suspicion of DUI/DWI, no matter where you are in the country. In that case, the best course of action is to immediately contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.

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