Introduction to DUI Standards Across the United States and Around the World
Across the United States, driving under the influence of alcohol is legal only to a certain degree. A driver must not exceed 0.08% blood alcohol concentration; otherwise the consequences of the driver’s actions can be quite severe.[i] The punishments vary from state to state and also depend on the blood alcohol concentration. An increased blood alcohol content can lead to an extreme DUI, and increase the penalties. Even though the punishments across the United States seem to be pretty extreme for driving under the influence, the punishments around the world make the United States seem pretty weak on punishment.
DUI Classifications and Punishments Across the United States
To begin with, Arizona is one of the strictest states when it comes to DUI enforcement and punishment.[ii] But what constitutes as a DUI in Arizona? There are three variations of DUIs that a driver can receive: standard, aggravated, and extreme. A standard DUI conviction in Arizona is classified as driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more in a standard vehicle.[iii] A standard DUI conviction for a commercial vehicle is much lower, at 0.04% BAC.[iv] Arizona has a no tolerance standard when it comes to underage drinking. So while some states allow a small blood alcohol concentration for underage drinkers, Arizona does not have any leniency for underage drinkers. If ANY alcohol is detected in the underage drinker, it can result in a DUI.[v]
Arizona also has a type of DUI that is classified as an extreme DUI. This is defined as driving with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. The final classification of DUI that Arizona has is the aggravated DUI. An aggravated DUI in Arizona can arise under three different situations.[vi] First, an aggravated DUI can arise if the DUI was committed while the driver’s license was either suspended or revoked.[vii] Next, if the DUI was the third offense for DUI within 84 months.[viii] And finally, if the DUI was committed with a child under the age of 15 years, the DUI will be classified as aggravated.[ix]
When it comes to punishment for DUI offenses in Arizona, again, the state is incredibly strict. There is a minimum jail sentence of that could range from 24 hours to 10 days.[x] The fines begin around $1,250 and can certainly increase depending on the circumstances of the case.[xi] There is always a chance of required community services that could last between hours and months.[xii] The driver’s license could be suspended or revoked completely.[xiii] In that case it is likely that the driver will be required to use an ignition interlock system in their car for a period of one year once the license has been reinstated.[xiv] Finally, the driver’s insurance could increase substantially – even double or triple the amount it was before the DUI conviction. It is possible that many insurance providers will decline to provide insurance for the driver because they are a high-risk driver. This is an especially big problem for drivers in Arizona where auto insurance is required by law.
Now, there are plenty of other states that are just as strict as Arizona but for the most part, most states a much more lenient when it comes to punishments for DUI charges. One of the most lenient states in the United States when it comes to DUI punishment is Pennsylvania. To begin with, there is no jail time.[xv] The fines start at about $300 plus any court costs – which is a fraction of the cost in Arizona.[xvi] There is a probation period of six months, but there is no revocation or suspension of the driver’s license.[xvii] Finally, there may be a requirement for the driver to attend a drug or alcohol assessment course.[xviii]
Arizona and Pennsylvania are polar opposites for when it comes to DUI punishments and the remaining 48 states either fall closely to Arizona or closely to Pennsylvania – or somewhere in between. Arizona is known in the United States as being incredibly harsh when it comes to DUI punishment, but it is a pale comparison to punishments around the world. Call to speak with one of our dedicated 24 hour dui attorneys in Phoenix.
DUI Classifications and Punishment Around the World
Many countries around the world have a similar blood alcohol concentration limit as the United States, ranking in at 0.08% blood alcohol concentration. These countries include: New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.[xix] Other countries that are close to the United States with a blood alcohol concentration legal limit of 0.05% include Australia, Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, and Portugal.[xx] In Japan, the legal limit for the blood alcohol concentration is just 0.03%.[xxi] Dropping down even lower to 0.02% legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is Russia and China.[xxii] A handful of countries have a no tolerance for drivers when it comes to drinking and driving, or using drugs and driving.[xxiii] These countries include Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia.
The legal limit of blood alcohol concentration is one thing, the punishment variations in these countries is an entirely different thing. In Australia, where the legal limit blood alcohol concentration is 0.05%, the punishment for a DUI is immediate loss of the driver’s license for a minimum of six months for a FIRST OFFENSE.[xxiv] If the DUI is the driver’s second offense – there will be a loss of license permanently.[xxv] In Canada, where the legal limit blood alcohol concentration is similar to the United States at 0.08%, the punishment for the DUI for a first offense is a $1,000 fine and a year one driving probation.[xxvi] For a second offense, there could be thirty days in jail and two year driving probation.[xxvii] For any further offenses, the driver could spend up to one hundred twenty days in jail with a three-year driving probation.[xxviii]
In Central and South American countries, the punishments can be pretty extreme. In Costa Rica a DUI offense could incur a fine of $500, a loss of license for the driver to two years, possible jail time, and even confiscation of the driver’s vehicle![xxix] In El Salvador, a driver can be found in violation of drinking and driving laws if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration limit is above just 0.01%.[xxx] This is essentially a zero tolerance law, but has a tiny bit a leeway. The punishments in this country have an automatic suspension of the driver’s license, fines, and even seizure of the driver’s vehicle.[xxxi] Another European country that often will confiscate the driver’s vehicle is France.[xxxii]
In some of the colder countries, such as Russia, where the blood alcohol concentration legal limit is 0.02%, the punishments are not solely for the driver of the car.[xxxiii] The driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol could have their license suspended for up to two years for just a first time offender.[xxxiv] Now, if a passenger is knowingly in the car with a driver that is intoxicated, the passenger could also have their license suspended.[xxxv] If the Russian driver refuses a field sobriety test, or a chemical sobriety test, the driver may be sentenced to fifteen days in prison.[xxxvi] Russia is known for some of the most dangerous prisons in the world – so taking a field sobriety test seems like a reasonably thing to do in order to avoid such a notoriously dangerous place.
Finally, Sweden has a slightly different want of determining the punishment for an intoxicated driver. In Sweden, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is just 0.02% and the fines will be based off how much money the driver has in their bank account.[xxxvii] It is also possible that the driver’s car will be seized and sold off.[xxxviii] Finally, the driver may have to attend an alcohol treatment program.[xxxix]
Conclusion to DUI Standards Across the United States and Around the World
When it comes to DUI standards in the United States and the corresponding punishments there is a lot of variety across the 50 states. While all 50 states have standard 0.08% blood alcohol concentration as the legal limit, the punishments range from extreme to seemingly pretty light. In Arizona, a state known for strict DUI enforcement and punishments – a driver caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs may have to spend at one day in jail but could be there for a whopping thirty days.[xl] On the other hand, there are states like Pennsylvania where jail time is not likely on the radar for punishment options.[xli]
Now, even though Arizona is known for incredibly strict DUI enforcement and punishments – the laws in Arizona are a pale comparison to the rest of the world. There are countries where the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% like the United States, and then there are some countries where there is a zero tolerance for any alcohol in the driver’s systems like Saudi Arabia and Romania.[xlii] In Russia – even the passenger can have their license suspended for knowingly riding in a car with a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And in Russia – the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is just 0.02% so it is a very fine line to cross into DUI territory. On the grand scale of the world, the United States is far behind other countries when it comes to DUI punishments. Every country has their own reasons for allowing higher or lower blood alcohol concentrations, and for the varying degrees of punishments.
[i] See Comparing State DUI Laws. FindLaw. (Accessed May 6, 2016). http://dui.findlaw.com/dui-laws-resources/comparing-state-dui-laws.html
[ii] See DUI Laws in America are not as Harsh as Other Parts of the World. DUI Process Library. (Accessed May 13, 2015). http://www.duiprocess.com/library/article1.php
[iii] See DUI & DWI in Arizona. Department of Motor Vehicle. (Accessed May 6, 2016). http://www.dmv.org/az-arizona/automotive-law/dui.php
[x] See DUI Laws in America are not as Harsh as Other Parts of the World. DUI Process Library. (Accessed May 13, 2015). http://www.duiprocess.com/library/article1.php
[xix] See DUI Laws in Other Countries. Drink – Drive – Lose. (Accessed May 13, 2016). http://www.drink-drive-lose.com/Article.aspx?a=87
[xxvi] See DUI Laws in Other Countries. Drink – Drive – Lose. (Accessed May 13, 2016). http://www.drink-drive-lose.com/Article.aspx?a=87
[xxxv] See DUI Laws in Other Countries. Drink – Drive – Lose. (Accessed May 13, 2016). http://www.drink-drive-lose.com/Article.aspx?a=87
[xl] See Comparing State DUI Laws. FindLaw. (Accessed May 6, 2016). http://dui.findlaw.com/dui-laws-resources/comparing-state-dui-laws.html
[xli] See DUI Laws in America are not as Harsh as Other Parts of the World. DUI Process Library. (Accessed May 13, 2015). http://www.duiprocess.com/library/article1.php
[xlii] See DUI Laws in Other Countries. Drink – Drive – Lose. (Accessed May 13, 2016). http://www.drink-drive-lose.com/Article.aspx?a=87