Research Firm Ranks States by DUI Leniency

Earlier this month, personal finance website and research group WalletHub published a study that ranked all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia according to how strict or lenient they are in pursuing DUI (or DWI, in states like Texas) convictions. The authors of the study ranked states based on a number of metrics including the minimum jail time for a first-time offender and the length of time that prior DUI convictions can influence penalties for later convictions. Other factors included the average insurance rate hike after a DUI and whether or not the states enforce no-refusal sobriety testing.

The study identified the strictest DUI states as Arizona, Georgia, Alaska and Oklahoma. Especially lenient states, on the other hand, include the Dakotas, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. These states have no minimum sentence for first-time convictions, and in some cases do not count DUI offenses as felonies regardless of how many prior convictions a person might have.

WalletHub also released a number of “key findings” in conjunction with the rankings.  They found that DUI offenses remain on your criminal record for at least six years in 80 percent of states, but they follow you for life in 5 states including Texas. All but seven states reserve the right to automatically suspend the licenses of drivers arrested for DUI before courts get involved. In general, red states were found to have tougher DUI laws than blue states. For the purposes of the study, “red” and “blue” states were designated based on how they voted in the 2012 presidential election.

So How Does Texas Stack up in the Rankings?

Texas came in at number 10 on the list – just ahead of Virginia and Delaware in a tie at 11 and behind West Virginia at nine. Not the harshest state for DUI penalties, but decidedly on the stricter end of the spectrum. Factors that likely influenced the ranking include the state’s policy of no-refusal sobriety testing and automatic felonies on a driver’s third DUI offense. Texas is, however, more lenient than some states in that it does not enforce a minimum fine for the first or second DUI conviction. The study also found that Texas ranked 30th in terms of drunk driving prevention efforts.

Bear in mind that drunk driving ordinances and policies vary from county to county. Likewise, we should take Texas’ overall ranking with a grain of salt. Each DWI case is different, and no two outcomes are exactly the same. If you’re arrested for DWI in the Houston area, you need a knowledgeable, experienced attorney to help you navigate the unique legal landscape of our region. When you hire Jim Medley Defense Lawyer, you gain the benefit of 25 years of criminal justice experience. Receive your free case evaluation online, or give us a call today to learn more about how we can help.