DWI/DUI Penalties Increase with Higher BAC

People who receive citations for driving 30 miles per hour over the speed limit pay a higher fine than those caught driving only five miles per hour over the speed limit. That's reasonable because the faster people speed, the greater the danger they cause.

People who are convicted of stealing a $25,000 ring receive greater punishment than those convicted of stealing a $3 bag of potato chips. That's reasonable because they have caused greater harm to others.

But people convicted of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 (twice the legal limit) often receive the same punishment as someone convicted of driving with a BAC only half as high (.08). That's not reasonable because the dangers caused by driving with a BAC of .16 is many, many times higher than with a BAC of .08 and penalties should reflect the increased severity of the crime.

Graph: Relative Risk of Fatal Crash

Michigan now implements a law that imposes tougher penalties for drivers convicted of operating a vehicle with a BAC of .16 or higher, including a one-year suspended license for first-time offenders, a maximum jail sentence of 93 to 180 days, fines of up to $700, and mandatory use of an ignition interlock device for one year. Since the law went into effect, an average of six drivers per day with a BAC of .16 or higher have been removed from the roads.


  • Cameron, D.H. Super drunks. Illinois Beverage Guide, 2012, 12(6), 6.

Filed Under: Driving

This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about any subject.
For more fine print, read the disclaimer.