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Drunk Driving Penalties Vary Widely by Location

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Punishments for drunk driving vary widely by location, ranging from receiving a ticket to landing in jail for a first-time offense, according to USA Today.

When former NBA star and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose was sentenced this week in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield for drunk driving, he was ordered to serve 20 days in the county jail for his first offense.  Had he appeared in nearby Pontiac, MI, he most likely would not have gone to jail, the newspaper reports.

States that require mandatory jail time for first offenders include Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia, while no jail time is required for first-time offenders in California, Connecticut and Indiana. Wisconsin gives first-time drunk drivers a ticket.

Sentencing guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism note that evidence suggests jail terms are extremely costly and no more effective in reducing repeat drunken driving, the newspaper reports.

The guidelines note one study found that for first-time offenders,  two days in jail may have a specific deterrent effect and may be more effective than a two-week sentence. The guidelines recommend the use of ignition interlock devices. This device requires a driver to take a breath test before starting the car, and will prevent the car from starting if the operator has a blood alcohol level above a certain amount.

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