As we wrote last July, Utah lowered its blood alcohol content (BAC) limit from .08 to .05 percent. on December 30, 2018, making it the strictest state in the country when it comes to DUI laws. So how has the first year of a lower BAC limit affected DUIs in Utah?
Utah Highway Patrol Estimates for 2019
The short answer: not much has changed. According to Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) Colonel Michael Rapich, around 10,000 DUI arrests were made in 2018, and 2019 was shaping up to be about the same. Rapich said, “The 0.05 change was absolutely never about arresting people that we wouldn't have otherwise arrested. The biggest thing was encouraging people to make better decisions.”
Rapich noted that not all the final data is in yet, but based on the first three months of 2019 (which is the only firm data UHP has at this writing), DUI arrests were up by 4.5 percent, or 2,713 arrests. Of those, only 135 were arrested because their BAC fell between .05 to .079 percent. Most of the others would have been arrested anyway for DUI under the old BAC because they were either under 21 or because a court had labeled them “alcohol restricted”—meaning they had a previous DUI conviction and were not to have any alcohol in their system at all.
Critics had warned that a lower BAC would hurt Utah's tourism industry. The American Beverage Institute had even placed ads in newspapers stating, “Utah: Come for a Vacation, Leave on Probation.” But the Utah Office of Tourism monitored social media platforms throughout 2019 and said they saw very few posts about the new .05 percent BAC.
New Year's Eve Numbers Down
Col. Rapich with UHP noted that New Year's Eve is no longer the problem day for DUI arrests. Thanks to effective campaigning and making people aware that they need to find alternative ways to get around if they have been drinking, DUI arrests on New Year's Eve have been dropping steadily over the last few years. Now the most problematic day for DUI arrests is July 24, or Pioneer Day, in Utah.
DUI Attorney Steve Karimi
If you find yourself in jail on New Year's Day, charged with a DUI in Washington, you are going to need an expert and effective DUI defense attorney. The Law Offices of Steve Karimi is here to help. Steve Karimi s a former prosecutor who now works to defend people against DUI charges, no matter how cut-and-dried the case may seem. Even if you failed a breath test during a DUI traffic stop, you still have options. Call his office today at 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form to learn how he can help you.