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Alcohol Related Crime Statistics

Alcohol’s Relationship to Crime

Alcohol can cause intoxication. Being intoxicated in certain situations is a crime in many parts of the U.S. Such cases include drunk driving, being drunk in public, and having open containers of alcohol on streets. 

Alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions or increase aggression. This increases the likelihood of committing assault, homicide, and other violent crimes. 

Alcohol can be a dangerous tool many people may use to victimize other people. This is the case with child abuse and sexual assault. 

Let’s take a closer look at these alcohol-related crimes and their statistics. 

What are Some Alcohol-Related Crimes?

Below are some crimes closely associated with alcohol. If you believe you or someone else is in danger, call 911 immediately.

Drunk Driving

Drunk drivers have impaired reaction time and judgment. Sometimes referred to as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), drunk driving has one of the most severe penalties. 

  • About one-third of fatal car crashes in the U.S. involve drunk drivers. In 2018, 29% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related.1
  • An estimated 1.5 million drivers in the U.S. are arrested per year for drunk driving. That’s roughly 1,250 arrests per 100,000 drivers.2
  • In 2017, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities occurred every 48 minutes in the U.S.3 The ratio of alcohol-impaired drivers is four males to one female.1
  • Alcohol-related crashes were highest among motorcycles (27%), followed by passenger cars (21%), light trucks (20%), and large trucks (3%).3
  • Fatal crashes are four times more frequent at night.3 In 2017, 32% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes at night were drunk.1
  • About 58% of people killed in alcohol-related car crashes are between 20 and 34 years old.4
  • The north-central region is the worst area for drunk driving in the U.S. Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota have the three highest arrest rates. Montana and Wyoming have the two highest death rates.5
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Assault

Alcohol can make some people hostile. Some people feel inhibited from alcohol and believe it’s acceptable to commit alcohol-related violence. In some cases, the effects are enhanced in the presence of other intoxicated people, and they antagonize each other.

  • Alcohol is more likely to be involved in substance-related violence than drugs. In 20% of incidents, the offender used alcohol. By comparison, only 5% of incidents involve drugs.6
  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), as many as 37% of assailants were drinking at the time of the offense.7
  • Some studies supported the notion that alcohol was most likely involved if the crime is more serious. Specifically, in a 1998 study, drinking offenders committed 26% of aggravated and simple assaults.6
  • Availability of alcohol is closely related to assaults. Communities with a high number of bars and liquor stores usually have more assaults.7

Homicide

Alcohol can escalate the severity of aggression, potentially leading to homicide. 

Homicide is a general term that includes murder and non-criminal killing acts. It carries the most severe penalties of any crime in most U.S. jurisdictions. 

  • In a study involving 268 homicide offenders, 32% were drunk at the time of the offense.6
  • According to the NIAAA, as many as 86% of homicide offenders were drinking at or before the crime time.7
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported convicted murderers in state prisons stated alcohol was a factor in half the murders they committed. It’s higher in murders of intimates (54%) than of acquaintances (50%) or strangers (47%).6
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Domestic Violence

Many perpetrators of domestic, marital, or intimate partner violence (IPV) use alcohol as an excuse, tool, or justification to commit violence. They might say their violent behavior resulted from alcohol use instead of admitting to willful action.

  • Two out of three individuals who suffered violence from a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend reported alcohol as a factor.6, 7
  • According to the NIAAA, up to 57% of men and 27% of women involved in marital violence were drinking at the time of the offense.7

If you or someone else is in danger, please call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or  1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

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Child Abuse and Neglect

Alcohol misuse is also heavily involved in some cases of child abuse and neglect. 

Parents who abuse alcohol might also neglect their children, leaving them at risk for abuse in future relationships. Child abuse victims may also develop alcohol use disorder (AUD) later in life as a result of the trauma.

  • According to the NIAAA, 13% of child abusers were drinking at the time of their offense.7
  • Around 70% of cases of child abuse involved parents or guardians with alcohol and drug abuse issues. Nine of 10 medical and mental health professionals refer to alcohol as the substance of choice in these cases.7
  • According to a 1993 study, nearly nine in ten women with alcoholism were victims of physical or sexual abuse as children.7

If you believe someone else is in danger, immediately call 911 or The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault offenders often use alcohol to lower victims’ inhibitions or incapacitate them to avoid resistance. 

Like offenders of domestic violence, sexual offenders may also use alcohol to justify their actions. 

  • According to the NIAAA, 60% of sexual offenders were drinking at the time of the offense.7
  • In 2002, over 70,000 students 18 to 24 years old were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault in the U.S.7

If you or someone else is in danger, immediately call 911 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673).

Other Alcohol-Related Statistics

Suicide

Alcohol abuse may increase suicide risk by lowering inhibitions, increasing impulsiveness, and impairing judgment. Some people may also use alcohol to ease the distress associated with committing suicide.

  • Among alcoholics, the lifetime risk of suicide is about 10 to 15%. Most suicide attempts occurred in the context of impulsiveness and alcohol abuse.8
  • In 2002, around 3 million youths were at risk for suicide. Those who consumed alcohol were twice as likely to attempt suicide.7
  • Adults with major depression in the past year and who binge-used alcohol or illicit drugs in the past month were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempts.7

If you or someone else is in danger, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Underage Drinking

Children and adolescents aren’t physically or mentally mature enough to handle intoxication or other effects of alcohol. This is why the legal drinking age in most parts of the U.S. is 21. It’s also a crime for anyone younger to possess alcohol.

  • In 2019, about 25% of 14- to 15-year-olds had at least one drink.9
  • In the same year, nearly two out of 100 of 12- to 13-year-olds drank alcohol in the past month. Less than one in 100 engaged in binge drinking.9
  • Among 16- to 17-years-old, less than one in five drank, while one in 10 engaged in binge drinking.9
  • Male high school students usually had higher rates of alcohol use and binge drinking. But in 2019, their female counterparts surpassed them.10
  • About 6% of surveyed teens said they drove while drinking within the past month.1

Robbery

Alcohol can intensify feelings of desperation. It can push some people to rob from someone else. 

Some studies supported the notion that alcohol was most likely involved if the crime is more serious. In a 1998 study that looked into robberies, 15% of cases are committed by people who are drunk. By comparison, the rates are 37% for rapes and sexual assaults and 26% for aggravated and simple assaults.6

Treatment Programs for Alcoholism

There are several treatment options available for alcoholism. People suffering from alcoholism must seek professional treatment advice to determine the most suitable option.11, 12

People with severe alcohol addiction will benefit from staying in an inpatient rehab facility. Outpatient rehab offers a less intensive approach, allowing people to maintain regular lives and live at home while under treatment.  

People might take medications to control their cravings and prevent relapse. Some also find behavioral therapy to be beneficial. Others may also choose to join support groups where they can find guidance and peer support.

Treatment programs aim to not only help people quit drinking but also to address and treat co-occurring conditions. 

This involves treatment professionals working with people who have depression, anxiety, anger management issues, or any other medical condition that accompanies their alcoholism.

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Updated on June 16, 2022
12 sources cited
  1. Drunk Driving.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  2. Impaired Driving: Get the Facts.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August 24, 2020.
  3. Alcohol-Impaired Driving.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). November 2018. 
  4. Alcohol Abuse Statistics.National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. 
  5. Best and Worst States for Drunk Driving.Background Checks.org. 
  6. Alcohol and Violence.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 
  7. Fact Sheet: Alcohol and Violence.Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles. June 2002.
  8. Pompili, Maurizio et al. “Suicidal behavior and alcohol abuse.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 7,4 : 1392-431.
  9. Underage Drinking.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). May 2021.
  10. Underage Drinking.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). October 6, 2021.
  11. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). January 2018.
  12. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

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