USA Today posted a good article about the fact that punishment for drunken driving among the states is inconsistent at best. Get arrested in Alaska, Tennessee or Georgia and you will face mandatory jail time for your first offense. These three states require mandatory sentences ranging from one to three days. Get arrested in California, Texas, Connecticut or Indiana and you won’t face mandatory jail time for your first offense.
In some states, like Wisconsin, first-offense DWIs aren’t even considered a criminal matter. It’s a civil infraction that results in a ticket. So far, there are no punishment guidelines for the states. It is up to each State’s Legislature to figure out what the punishment range should be.
The article states that National research suggests jailing first-time offenders "has no impact" on whether they will do it again.
Sentencing guidelines drawn up in 2006 by federal highway officials and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism concur. "The available evidence suggests that as a specific deterrent, jail terms are extremely costly and no more effective in reducing (drunken driving) recidivism," the guidelines note.