Over The Limit: Blood Alcohol Content By State

Over The Limit: Blood Alcohol Content By State

DUI breathalyzer test in Los Angeles

There was a time when driving over state lines could save you from a DUI. That’s not true anymore. Every state in the union has adopted the same over-the-limit point: 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). But that doesn’t mean that every state has the same penalties. Many states have an enhanced over-the-limit policy for drivers who are significantly above the legal limit. For California, a BAC over 0.15 percent will immediately put you in the enhanced category and get you higher fines and stiffer jail and rehabilitation penalties.

Obviously, these higher penalties are meant to serve as both preventative and punitive measures. It is interesting to note that enhanced BAC levels start at 0.15 percent and can reach 0.20 percent in some states before grater sanctions are imposed on drivers.

Here is when the enhanced penalties kick in:

  • Alabama: 0.15 percent
  • Alaska: 0.15 percent (at judge’s discretion)
  • Arizona: 0.15 percent
  • Arkansas: 0.15 percent
  • California: 0.15 percent
  • Colorado: 0.17 percent
  • Connecticut: 0.16 percent
  • Delaware: 0.16 percent
  • District of Columbia: 0.20 percent and 0.25 percent
  • Florida: 0.20 percent
  • Georgia: 0.15 percent
  • Hawaii: 0.15 percent
  • Idaho: 0.20 percent
  • Illinois: 0.16 percent
  • Indiana: 0.15 percent
  • Iowa: 0.15 percent
  • Kansas: 0.15 percent
  • Kentucky: 0.18 percent
  • Louisiana: 0.15 percent and 0.20 percent
  • Maine: 0.15 percent
  • Maryland: 0.15 percent
  • Massachusetts: 0.20 percent for underage drinkers
  • Michigan: 0.17 percent
  • Minnesota: 0.20 percent
  • Mississippi: N/A
  • Missouri: 0.15 percent
  • Montana: 0.16 percent
  • Nebraska: 0.15 percent
  • Nevada: 0.18 percent
  • New Hampshire: 0.16 percent
  • New Jersey: 0.10 percent
  • New Mexico: 0.16 percent with mandatory jail sentences
  • New York: 0.18 percent
  • North Carolina: 0.15 percent
  • North Dakota: 0.18 percent
  • Ohio: 0.17 percent
  • Oklahoma: 0.15 percent
  • Oregon: 0.15 percent
  • Pennsylvania: 0.16 percent
  • Rhode Island: 0.10 percent and 0.15 percent
  • South Carolina: 0.15 percent
  • South Dakota: 0.17 percent
  • Tennessee: 0.20 percent
  • Texas: 0.15 percent
  • Utah: 0.16 percent
  • Vermont: N/A
  • Virginia: 0.15 percent and 0.20 percent
  • Washington: 0.15 percent
  • West Virginia: 0.15 percent
  • Wisconsin: 0.17 percent, 0.20 percent, and 0.35 percent
  • Wyoming: 0.15 percent

In addition to the enhanced penalties for having a high BAC, there are other ways to get an enhanced penalty in certain states. For example, in Michigan, if a chemical test is refused at the time of arrest, there will be an administrative license suspension. The same is true in South Dakota, with a minimum of 30 days of suspension. Texas extends the suspension for test refusal to six months, and in Florida, refusal of a chemical test results in a year of license suspension.

If you are convicted of an enhanced-penalty BAC offense in certain states, a mandatory ignition lock may be placed on your primary vehicle. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Other states make it mandatory for repeat offenders or as a discretionary measure that can be added by judges. Currently, California has a pilot program in place in Alameda, Los Angeles, Tulare, and Sacramento counties that makes ignition locks a mandatory part of sentencing.

By Ted Burgess

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