Utah's new blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.05 percent, the lowest (and most inflammatory) blood alcohol legal limit for drivers in the country, is not set to go into effect until the end of this year. Since its passage into law, the state has experienced substantial pushback from disgruntled restaurant and hospitality groups. The chief concern is that it will harm the Utah tourism industry.The end of 2018 is too close for comfort for those persons or organizations who oppose the bill or who have retracted their initial support. Many lawmakers remain staunch to retain the law, despite the fierce opposition, but in the wake of this sour mood toward the law, legislators are now inclined to delay the date the bill goes into effect until 2022.
Rep. Karen Kwan introduced House Bill 345. In addition to enabling immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, the bill proposes pushing back the implementation the of the 0.05 BAC limit from this year to 2022. If HB 345 is not enacted into law, the 0.05 BAC legal limit goes into effect on New Year's Eve 2018.
New Year's Eve is one of the busiest days of the year with regard to drunk driving offenses. A new, stringent BAC limit that may or may not indicate impairment could be the reason hundreds if not thousands of Utah citizens wind up with DUI charges on New Year's Day. This is not exactly the best way to ring in the New Year. "We don't know what's going to happen with this," said Rep. Kwan. "We don't know implementation, how we're going to do that. The policy, I think the policy is a bad one anyways."
And a BAC legal limit of 0.05 is bad policy because it just isn't realistic. For some of you, that means one or two drinks tops before you are at your legal limit. If you go out for a nice dinner with your family and order a bottle of wine, forget about driving home or don't finish the bottle of wine together because you could risk a DUI arrest on the way home, and if you have a child in the vehicle, you could face a felony charge.
Unfortunately, a new study just released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concurs with Utah legislators who voted for the lower BAC legal limit of 0.05 percent. Their reasoning for it isn't sound and is basically as follows: other countries have a legal limit of 0.05, so why can't we? Of course, the study points to a theory that the lower BAC will save lives. But how? Reducing the legal limit will not prevent accidents. In fact, in most states, you can still be arrested and convicted of a DUI offense if your BAC is lower than 0.08 percent. In Georgia, if you are suspected of driving under the influence and are tested for your blood alcohol content level, and it is between 0.05 and 0.08%, you can be charged and convicted for DUI Less Safe. It is absurd to assume a lowered BAC legal limit will act as a deterrent to drinking and driving. What it will do is clear: put more innocent people behind bars and burden an already overwhelmed justice system.
Back in Utah, Rep. Kwan's initial intention was to repeal the law entirely, but she does not believe the legislature would join her in this endeavor. "I think that it's bad policy, I think it's not sound policy," she told FOX 13. "But I'm not sure there's a political will in Utah to [repeal it]." For us in Georgia, if a legislator even thinks of proposing a similar bill, we will be ready to oppose it.
In the meantime, if you have been charged with a DUI or a DUI Less Safe, you need to know it is not a one-way ticket to a conviction. If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Dekalb County, immediately contact a DeKalb County DUI attorney to combat your charges and protect your rights.