The Utah Legislature passed a bill lowering the blood alcohol content level from .08 to .05., making it the first state in the nation to adhere to such a strict DUI threshold. The bill, known as House Bill 155, was sponsored and proposed by Republican Norm Thurston. Having previously passed the House, the bill passed the Senate on a close 18-11 vote.
As expected, there have been a number conflicting opinions surrounding the bill's passing. Before it was voted on, Utah legislators clashed over the it. Supporters of the bill claim that if properly enforced, it will save lives by keeping those who are driving under the influence of alcohol off the road. They hope the new bill discourages those who have downed a considerable amount of alcohol from getting behind the wheel. Referencing harsher DUI laws passed by Canada and other European countries, supporters believe that the new law will drastically reduce highway fatalities involving drunk drivers.
Conversely, legislators who are skeptical of the bill claim that it goes too far. They claim that spectators will perceive Utah residents as “a peculiar people” during a time the state has been struggling with getting tourists to visit the state. The American Beverage Institute, an association that lobbies on behalf of the restaurant industry, in support of the bill's damaging effects on tourism, opposed the bill.
“By passing H.B. 155 and lowering the legal BAC limit to .05, Utah legislators have damaged the state's hospitality and tourism industries, while doing little to make the roads safer,” said institute Managing Director Sarah Longwell. “Over 77 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Utah are caused by people with BACs of .15 and above, and the average BAC of someone in a fatal crash is .20 - well over twice the legal limit.”
The institute substantiated that a 150-pound man could get a DUI after downing two beers, while a 120-pound woman could be apprehended and charged after one single drink. They also mention that there are a multitude of factors, including how much food is in a person's stomach, their height and other crucial factors that determine a person's BAC.
The Sutherland Institute, a think tank advocacy group that works in conjunction with policymakers, claims the bill was a step in the right direction. Their spokesperson Derek Monson released a statement.
“This is common-sense policy in much of the civilized world, which already has a .05 BAC standard with no discernible harms to tourism, court/prison systems or the rights of responsible drinkers,” Monson said.
Now, the public awaits Utah Governor Gary Herbert to either sign or veto the bill. So far, it seems as if he supports the new regulation, claiming that he currently has plans to sign the bill into law. If he goes through signing it, the new law will be put into effect on Dec. 30, 2018 - exactly one day before Utah residents throw their New Year's Eve celebrations, presumably with the presence of alcoholic beverages.
If you have been apprehended and charged for a DUI, you should immediately contact a qualified attorney. An arrest does not guarantee a conviction. Call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.