Arizona drivers may feel like the police are harsh when it comes to a first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offense. Those feelings are valid.

WalletHub compared DUI penalties across the country, and based on their methodology, Arizona has the strictest DUI laws in the United States.

Detailed findings

Arizona earned this ranking based on several pieces of data. They include:

  • What are the fines and minimum jail sentences for a first conviction?: In Arizona, first-time offenders receive a minimum 10-day sentence and a minimum fine of $750. In fact, another compilation of DUI laws in the U.S. noted that Arizona tops the list when it comes to how tough the state is toward first-time offenders.
  • What are the fines and minimum jail sentences for a second conviction?: Second convictions come with a minimum 90-day sentence and a minimum fine of $1,750. However, some states require second-time offenders to stay in jail for a minimum of 180 days.
  • When is a DUI an automatic felony and how does the time between DUIs impacts penalties?: In Arizona, third offenses are an automatic felony. Some states are stricter in this regard, where a second offense is an automatic felony. A previous DUI in Arizona impacts a new DUI if they are within seven years of one another.
  • How long is an Administrative License Suspension?: Mandatory license suspensions can last for at least 90 days in Arizona. In Georgia, which ranked No. 2, license suspension can last for a minimum of 360 days.
  • Will they impound your vehicle after an arrest?: In Arizona, the answer is yes.
  • Is an ignition interlock device mandatory, and for how long?: It is, with a first conviction and a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. The mandatory period in Arizona is 12 months.
  • Are there additional penalties for a high BAC?: Arizona has harsher penalties for DUI offenses in which you have a BAC of 0.15 or higher.
  • Are mandatory alcohol assessments mandatory?: In Arizona, the answer is yes.
  • What is the average insurance rate decrease after a DUI?: Arizona drivers’ insurance rates can decrease by an average of 37 percent after a conviction. However, in Connecticut, rates can decrease by up to 100 percent on average.
  • Does the state have child endangerment protection or use sobriety checkpoints? Arizona does include a child endangerment stipulation for DUI offenses and does utilize sobriety checkpoints.

While Arizona is still not as harsh as Utah when it comes to the minimum BAC limit for a DUI, its penalties are especially strict, even for a first-time mistake. It is also worth noting that in Arizona, unlike some other states, minimum sentences can be reduced or waived with an agreement to perform community service or receive alcohol treatment and/or education.

For this reason, having an aggressive defense can be the difference between a reasonable punishment and uniquely extreme penalties.