Despite the already incredibly harsh DUI Laws in Utah, some lawmakers are considering lowering the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05. Utah is already well known throughout the country as having illogical alcohol laws on the book, i.e. the Zion Curtain etc., this would surely put Utah in another odd category in the alcohol restrictions realm. Proponents of the change argue there could be considerable benefits and potentially prevent more drunk driving accidents and fatalities. They even go as far as to allege if the limit was lowered nationwide, potentially 1,000 lives could be saved each year. Critics of the proposal, including the American Beverage Institute, argue there is no evidence to support such claims and suggest the science on drunk driving indicates .05, .08, or with some individuals even higher BACs are not a significant impairment worthy of restricting. Critics also argue lowering the legal limit in Utah will only lead to non impaired drivers being charged taking away needed resources to catch those actually driving drunk and creating a danger to the public. They further reply that over 70 % of all drunk driving related fatalities involved a driver with a BAC of .15 or higher, that being nearly twice the current legal limit.
DUI Penalties are Already Significant
For some reason, a few select conservative representatives in Utah are once again picking up the torch for increased regulations for both alcohol and tobacco laws this coming legislative session. In addition to the unnecessary DUI notes above, some are pushing to increase the legal age for smoking from 19 to 21. It seems every year in Utah, a few select law makers, clearly driven by religious ideologies, seek to impose new laws on alcohol, tobacco, and other substances simply because they pose a health risk. Some of us seem to forget how harsh the DUI penalties in Utah already are. Consider the following penalties for a first time DUI offense:
- Minimum of 2 days in jail, up to 180 days in jail (court can substitute community service or home detention in lieu of jail time).
- $700 minimum fine plus surcharge (most DUI fines are closer to $1500).
- Mandatory alcohol screening, assessment, and educational series. Treatment mandatory if BAC of .16 or higher.
- Probation, may be ordered to supervised probation. Mandatory supervised probation if BAC .16 or higher.
- May order Ignition Interlock be installed in all vehicles. Mandatory Ignition Interlock of BAC .16 or higher.
- License Suspension.
- Other penalties may also been imposed.
It is not as if getting a DUI in Utah is a walk in the park. Enough penalties are imposed to properly deter drunk driving in this state. Charging individuals with a DUI who are not impaired will only bring negative effects to the system in Utah and categorize more individuals as criminals who have done no harm to others. More information on DUI penalties in Utah or related topics from Salcido Law Firm PLLC can be found below:
Will a Bill See the Light of Day?
Whether or not a bill will make its way through to a vote this legislative session remains to be seen. While committees at the state capitol heard argument on the issue this week, it seems to be unlikely a bill to this effect will actually succeed or even make it our of committee. No other state in the country has lowered the federal standard of .08 to .05. Proponents of the bill have obviously targeted Utah to become the first since Utah already has unique and restrictive alcohol laws. It seems these advocates believe Utah may be their best shot of getting change started nationwide. Some European countries, South American countries, and Australian have made the change to a .05 limit in recent years. It remains to be seen whether Utah or any other state will follow.