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States Legal Limits for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

In the US, the BAC limits for DUI/DWI laws are determined by individual States. The limit of 0.08 BAC used in some States is the highest level in the industrial world.

State BAC defined
as illegal

per se
Administrative
license
suspension
1st offense

privileges
during
suspension?
DUI Related Fatalities in 2001
Alabama 0.08 90 days No No/No

376

Alaska 0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/Yes 43
Arizona 0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/Yes 488
Arkansas 0.08 120 days Yes Yes/Yes 193
California 0.08 4 months After 30 days Yes/Yes 1565
Colorado 0..08 3 months Yes Yes/No 328
Connecticut 0..08 90 days Yes No/No 158
Delaware 0.08 3 months No Yes/No 65
District of Columbia 0.08 2-90 days Yes No/No 38
Florida 0.08 6 months Yes Yes/Yes 1264
Georgia 0.08 1 year Yes Yes/Yes 557
Hawaii 0.08 3 months After 30 days Yes/No 60
Idaho >0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/No 97
Illinois 0.08 3 months After 30 days Yes/Yes 620
Indiana 0.08 180 days After 30 days Yes/No 337
Iowa 0.08 180 days Yes Yes/No 155
Kansas 0.08 30 days No Yes/No 194
Kentucky 0.08 -- -- Yes/Yes 247
Louisiana 0.08** 90 days After 30 days Yes/Yes 445
Maine 0.08 90 days Yes Yes/Yes 65
Maryland 0.08 45 days Yes Yes/No 290
Massachusetts None 90 days No No/No 234
Michigan 0.08 -- -- Yes/Yes 518
Minnesota 0.08 90 days After 15 days No/Yes 226
Mississippi 0.08 90 days No Yes/Yes 282
Missouri 0.08 30 days No Yes/Yes 523
Montana 0.08 -- -- Yes/Yes 104
Nebraska 0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/No 96
Nevada 0.08 90 days After 45 days Yes/No 133
New Hampshire 0.08 6 months No Yes/No 70
New Jersey 0.08 -- -- Yes/No 297
New Mexico 0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/No 214
New York 0.08 Variable Yes Yes/Yes 498
North Carolina 0.08 30 days After 10 days Yes/Yes 533
North Dakota 0.08 91 days after 30 days Yes/Yes 53
Ohio 0.10 90 days after 15 days Yes/Yes 604
Oklahoma 0.08 180 days Yes Yes/Yes 266
Oregon 0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/Yes 190
Pennsylvania 0.08 -- -- Yes/Yes 663
Rhode Island 0.08 -- -- Yes/Yes 49
South Carolina 0.08 -- -- Yes/Yes 592
South Dakota 0.08 -- -- No/No 84
Tennessee 0.10 -- -- Yes/Yes 537
Texas 0.08 60 days Yes Yes/Yes 1785
Utah 0.08 90 days No Yes/No 68
Vermont 0.08 90 days No No/Yes 35
Virginia 0.08 7 days No Yes/No 340
Washington 0.08 90 days After 30 days Yes/Yes 281
West Virginia 0.08 6 months After 30 days Yes/No 135
Wisconsin 0.08 6 months Yes Yes/Yes 364
Wyoming 0.08 90 days Yes No/No 81
Puerto Rico 0.08 249
*A multiple offender's vehicle may be seized and disposed.

**Effective 09/30/03

Facts about DUI/DWI Laws

In the US, BAC limits for DUI/DWI Laws are determined by individual states. The limit of .10 BAC used in some states is the highest in the industrial world.1

A 1999 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) stated that although the impact of .08 BAC laws is not conclusive, there are “strong indications that .08 BAC laws, in combination with other drunk driving laws (particularly license revocation laws), sustained public education and information efforts, and vigorous and consistent enforcement, can save lives.”2

A multi-state study found that .08 BAC laws correlated positively with reductions in alcohol-related fatalities, alone or in conjunction with Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws, in seven of 11 states. In five of these seven states (Vermont, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida and New Mexico), implementation of the law itself correlated positively with lower rates of alcohol-related fatalities. 3

In 1998, more than 80 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for alcohol had BAC levels exceeding .08. 4

Research indicates that .08 BAC laws reduce not only the incidence of impaired driving at lower BACs, but also the incidence of impaired driving at higher BACs (i.e., more than .10). 5

An average male weighing 170 pounds would have to consume more than four beers within one hour on an empty stomach to reach a .08 BAC level. 6

Virtually all drivers’ critical driving skills, such as braking, steering and lane changing, are impaired at .08 BAC. The rate of impaired performance is as high as 70 percent. 7

Federal law requires that states have laws that target repeat intoxicated drivers. Four categories of laws impact these individuals: licensing sanctions (ALR laws); vehicle sanctions (vehicle impoundment); required alcohol assessment and treatment; and mandatory sentencing. 8

ALR laws do not replace criminal prosecution and their constitutionality has been consistently upheld when challenged. All state appellate courts that have considered this issue have upheld ALR as a constitutional means of protecting the public from impaired drivers. 9

Results of a 1996 study indicate that ALR laws do not significantly impact an offender’s job or income. The study compared three ALR laws states with one state that used other sanctions and found no difference regarding offender employment or income. In both ALR and non-ALR laws states, 94 percent of offenders who were employed at the time of their arrest were still working one month later. Four percent were unemployed and two percent were in school. License revocations as long as 90 days did not lead to loss of job or income. 10

All states and the District of Columbia have a minimum drinking age of 21. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that these laws have reduced traffic fatalities involving drivers ages 18-20 by 13 percent and have saved as many as 23,043 lives since 1975. In 2000, the number of estimated lives saved by minimum drinking age laws was 922. 11

Endnotes:

1 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (April 2001). Setting Limits, Saving Lives: The Case for.08 BAC Laws. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
2 Ibid
3.Ibid.
4 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). State Legislative Fact Sheet, .08 BAC Illegal Per Se Level. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
5 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (January 2001). State Legislative Fact Sheet, .08 BAC Illegal Per Se Level, Point-Counterpoint. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
6 Supra Note 4.
7 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. (2000). DUI/DWI Laws as of October 2000.
8 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). State Legislative Fact Sheets, Repeat Intoxicated Driver Laws. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
9 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). Administrative License Revocation (or Suspension), Key Facts. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
10 Ibid.
11 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (2001). Traffic Safety Facts 2000, Alcohol. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation

 

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