Surge of DUI Arrests Anticipated if Lower Blood Alcohol Limit Becomes Utah State law

A bill to lower the blood alcohol limit in Utah could soon become law and will likely result in a surge of DUI arrests.

Utah pioneering the way

Photo by: Nicolas Raymond

Photo by: Nicolas Raymond

Up until now, all 50 states including Utah had a .08% blood alcohol limit for drivers. The only time drivers faced criminal charges for a BAC lower than .08% was if they were active commercial truck drivers who were not allowed to reach or exceed a blood alcohol limit of.04%. Now Utah may be the first state in the nation to decrease the blood alcohol limit beyond the.08% down to .05%. A bill lowering the blood alcohol limit in Utah recently passed the House and was voted 4-2 by a Senate committee. If the bill passes the senate, it will more than likely result in a spike of DUI arrests from those who enjoy a drink after work or with dinner.

Forgo that drink with dinner

Photo by: Daniel Lee

Photo by: Daniel Lee

The blood alcohol limit can vary depending on gender and body weight, as well as other factors. According to the National highway Traffic Safety Administration, if a woman weight 100 pounds and consumed within an hour one 12 ounce beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine, or a single shot of a 40% alcohol spirit, according to the revised law, she would be considered legally intoxicated. A 160 pound man would be intoxicated after consuming two drinks. A single glass of wine or a couple beers are common beverage choices for persons to consume with their meal when dining out or stopping for drinks with friends. Unfortunately since Utah is getting closer to decreasing the blood alcohol limit to .05% if HB 155 passes, restaurants may want to ensure patrons have a designated driver before offering the beer and wine list.

Blood alcohol limit revised

Blood Alcohol Limit

Photo by: West Midlands Police

The revisions to DUI laws that were passed by the House and the Senate Committee are as follows: “ A person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state if the person:

(a) has sufficient alcohol in the person’s body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of [.08] .05 grams or greater at the time of the test;

(b) is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle; or

(c) has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of [.08] .05 grams or greater at the time of operation or actual physical control.”

Along with an increased risk of DUI arrests for social drinkers, the revisions to the DUI laws would mean more people could face automobile homicide charges if they were involved in fatal accidents after having a drink or two. The bill would adjust Utah Code 76-5-207 to state “Criminal homicide is automobile homicide, a third degree felony, if the person operates a motor vehicle in a negligent manner causing the death of another and:
(i) has sufficient alcohol in his body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of [.08] .05 grams or greater at the time of the test; ( . . . )
(iii) has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of [.08] .05 grams or greater at the time of operation.”

(Near)Zero tolerance for adults

Photo by: Victor

Photo by: Victor

Utah has a zero tolerance law for DUI drivers under the age of 21 and if HB 155 passes, the law for adults would be nearly zero tolerance as well. According to Utah Code 41-6a-505, those found guilty of a DUI (from the new blood alcohol content of .05 % or more) would face:

• 48 hour incarceration or home confinement;

• $700 fine;

• 90 day license suspension;

• Vehicle impound fees; and

• Possible screening, assessment, or educational classes or treatment.

With Utah pioneering a crackdown on any driving after consuming alcohol, it is more important than ever to make sure those facing charges related to driving under the influence are represented by a skilled criminal defense attorney.


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