Utah's decision to lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level from 0.08% down to 0.05% highlights the political nature of driving under the influence (DUI), as well as the abilities of states in the U.S. to experiment with how they enforce their laws.
Utah Lowers Legal BAC Limit
Back in March, Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law that lowered the legal BAC limit in the state. When it goes into effect on December 30, 2018, drivers in the state of Utah will be presumptively under the influence if they have a BAC of 0.05% or above. In California and all of the other states in America, this BAC level is 0.08%.
The Political Crime of Drunk Driving
The uproar surrounding the new law has come from both sides of the debate.
On the one hand, supporters of the law point out that the 0.08% BAC limit used in America is far higher than it is in much of Europe, warranting a reduction. They also argue that any drawback to the law is more than offset by a reduction in fatalities from drunk drivers. Many of the supporters, though, come from the state's Mormon population, who have been pushing against consuming alcohol for decades because it is against their religion.
Opponents of the law, on the other hand, point out that Utah already has the lowest DUI death rate in the country, and that a lower BAC limit will deter tourists and lower alcohol sales as people worry about getting arrested. The core focus of their stance against the new law, though, is not on personal responsibility: They are on the state's bottom line, and how the lower BAC law will reduce tax income.
How Low Is 0.05%?
According to opponents of Utah's new law, 0.05% is far too low. The American Beverage Institute, which opposes the law, claims that a 120-pound woman would reach the new legal limit after just a little over one drink and that, statistically, drivers at 0.05% are less dangerous on the roads than when they talk on a hands-free cell phone. The result is a significant infringement on someone's ability to drink socially and responsibly, for little to no gain in roadway safety.
Utah to Become Testing Ground for New BAC Level
Nevertheless, Utah's new law is set to go into effect one year from now. When it does, other states, including California, will be watching the results closely to see how the reduction impacts roadway safety and the state's economy.
This ability of individual states in the U.S. to experiment is one of the major perks of how the U.S. legal system is structured. The lessons that Utah and other states will learn about different BAC levels is something that will impact decisions in DUI laws for years to come.
Sacramento DUI-Defense Attorney John Campanella
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in California, you need legal help to avoid or reduce the implications of a costly conviction. Contact the law office of DUI-defense attorney John Campanella online or at (877) DUI-JOHN.