The website WalletHub recently ranked all 50 states according to how strict they are on drivers charged with driving under the influence. Surprisingly, Ohio is ranked near the bottom of the list, meaning it is considered one of the more “lenient” states when it comes to punishing alleged drunk drivers. Ohio came in at No. 41, tied with New Jersey. South Dakota was ranked as the most lenient state. It has no minimum jail sentence for a first-time DUI offense or second offense. Arizona was ranked as the strictest state, according the WalletHub report. Arizona has a 10-day minimum jail sentence for first time DUI offenders and a 90-day minimum jail sentence for a second DUI offense.
WalletHub utilized 15 metrics and weighted each so that the toughest ones (i.e. jail sentences) and those shown to have the biggest impact on repeat offenders (i.e. ignition interlock devices) were weighted more heavily, according to the WalletHub report. An article on Chron.com summarized the report and listed the other key metrics, which included:
- Number of years a DUI arrest factors into a new DUI charge;
- Additional penalties for high blood alcohol content;
- Minimum fines for first and second offenses;
- Whether there is a provision for protection against child endangerment;
- Which conviction triggers a mandatory ignition interlock;
- Length of time the interlock is mandatory;
- Length of administrative license suspension after arrest but before conviction;
- Whether alcohol abuse assessment or treatment is mandatory;
- Whether a vehicle is impounded after the driver’s arrest for DUI;
- Amount of an average insurance rate increase after a DUI;
- Whether there is a “no refusal” initiative for rapid search warrants for sobriety testing; and
- Existence of sobriety checkpoints.
Ohio has a 3-day minimum jail sentence for a first-time DUI offense and a 10-day minimum jail sentence for a second DUI offense. Additionally, a Ohio DUI charge escalates to a felony when a driver is charged for a fourth time.
Ohio’s ranking is somewhat puzzling since the Buckeye State is tied with New Jersey at No. 41. New Jersey has no minimum jail sentence for a first offense DUI and only a 2-day minimum jail sentence for a second DUI offense. Yet, despite Ohio’s more stringent laws, it is tied with the Garden State.
Ohio should probably be ranked higher on this list since the DUI laws in the state are closer to higher-ranked South Carolina. In the Palmetto State, a driver charged with DUI faces a 2-day minimum jail sentence for their first offense and a 5-day jail sentence for their second offense (which is actually less stringent that Ohio). Like Ohio, South Carolina escalates a DUI offense to a felony after the fourth offense.
These rankings raise the important question: do stricter laws result in less DUI-related incidents? Maybe. In Arizona, there were 219 drunk driving-related fatalities last year, which constitutes 25.8 percent of all traffic-related deaths, according to MADD. In Ohio, there were 271 drunk driving-related fatalities, which constitutes 27.4 percent of all traffic deaths, also according to MADD. Yes, Arizona has fewer drunk driving incidents, but it is not leaps and bounds better than Ohio.