Utah's notorious new .05 BAC limit will not take effect for some 20 months, but opponents of the law are already waging a campaign for its repeal. The American Beverage Institute has begun printing newspaper ads in Utah's neighbor, Idaho, in an effort to deter tourism to the state. "Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation" the tagline reads, depicting a young woman holding a placard stating her age, height and "crime," which was "having one drink with dinner." Sarah Longwell, managing director at the ABI, stated that the aim of the campaign is to "educate people in states who have a high percentage of people who visit the state of Utah who could be potentially impacted by this law.”
Idaho sends the second most tourists to the state. Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill into law last month, making Utah's DUI limit the strictest in the country. Herbert remains conscious of the effect the new law may have on tourism, and intends to take measures to curb it. In fact, now that the bill has been signed into law he seems to have withdrawn some support for it.
The new limit has been the subject of enormous ire, as many find the limit overly punitive without making roadways much safer. Even advocate groups against drunk driving have expressed the opinion that lowering the legal limit does little to enhance roadway safety. The .05 limit casts a wider net for prosecutors to file drunk driving charges, despite the fact that individuals with .05 - .08 BAC do not cause the majority of alcohol related accidents or fatalities. More effective DUI reform would lessen punitive action, and promote treatment & alternative sentencing options for first time and low BAC offenders. Instead, with the new law, such low grade offenders will be targeted. Serial DUI offenders or drivers with very high BACs ought to be the target of legislative reform. Their legal treatment remains unchanged, the same under a .05 limit as it would be under a .08 limit. Arguably, being aware that the state enforces a very low BAC limit might reinforce the decision not to drive in a situation where someone might've otherwise considered it. But does this abstract benefit justify the law?
Gov. Herbert has planned a special legislative session this summer to ‘tweak' the bill. He is inclined, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, “[to create] lesser penalties for those arrested with a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.08 than for those with higher levels.” This would be a critical change to the law and perhaps a realistic recalibration of its method. He has also suggested that perhaps Utah should not be the first to implement such a law, but should wait for other states to adopt similar measures and see how their tourism industries are effected. In the wake of the ABI's attack on Utah tourism, this concern may be valid.
It should be noted that Utah was the first state to drop the BAC limit to .08, and soon every state followed suit. The first BAC limit on the books was .15, so it seems to be steadily dropping over the years. But does impairment really begin at one drink? The jury is still out. The National Transportation Safety Board believes it does. To counter, the ABI presents the statistic that only 1% of traffic fatalities are caused by drivers with a BAC between .05 and .08.
While the battle over legislative minutia rages on, the fact remains: if you have been charged with driving under the influence, you will require exceptional legal representation to review and fight your charges. It is imperative that you contact Georgia DUI Defense Attorney Richard Lawson immediately so that he may begin evaluating your charges and building your defense.