Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Utah to lower DUI threshold from .08 to .05

Is the rest of the nation next?

Washington State PoliceCurrently, the “per se”[1] limit for alcohol impairment in every state is .08. However, that is about to change. The Utah legislature recently presented a bill for the governor’s signature lowering the legal limit to .05. The governor intends to sign it and the law is currently scheduled to kick in December 30, 2018 – just in time for a New Year’s Eve Emphasis patrol.

Driving while intoxicated is clearly dangerous, but would someone definitely be too impaired to safely drive with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .05? Depending on your size and body chemistry, you can be at .05 after just one drink.

Utah restauranteurs are particularly worried about this new law, since many folks like to enjoy a glass of wine with their meal. Could this mean that people will choose not to order the most profitable items on their menus? Does this mean Utah residents will eat out less often?

It is unclear what spurred the Utah legislature to make the change; there is no language in the bill regarding legislative intent. If they are relying on new scientific evidence no such evidence was cited.

It should be noted that the National Traffic Safety Board recommends a per se BAC level of .05, and that many European countries use an equivalent standard (although theirs is measured in jigabobs per milliliter or whatever).

Of course, the safest bet would be if no one ever drove with any alcohol in their system, or texted, or played their music too loudly, or talked “hands free” while driving. Actually, the safest bet would be outlawing all driving completely but “overbroad” laws that criminalize innocuous conduct (as well as the dangerous conduct they are intending to deter) are unconstitutional.

What do you think? Should your state be next?


[1] You are presumed to be impaired at or above the per se level. This means that all a prosecutor has to prove in order to get a conviction is that you were behind the wheel and that you had at least a .08 BAC. In Washington State (and others), you can also be found impaired with less than a .08 BAC if there is evidence that the level of alcohol in your system affected your ability to drive “to an appreciable degree.” For example, maybe you were swerving all over the road, involved in a collision, or flunked the VOLUNTARY field sobriety tests you agreed to perform for some incomprehensible reason.