Together with Arizona and South Carolina, Florida is considered to have some of the more strict DUI laws in the country. Soon, however, Utah will be the undisputed king of strict DUI laws in the nation.
Currently, all states require a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater for someone to be considered to be driving under the influence. Recently Utah’s Governor, Gary Herbert, signed legislation giving Utah the strictest DUI threshold in the country. The law reduces the DUI blood alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05.
Opponents of the law urged the governor to veto the bill, contending it would punish responsible drinkers and reinforce Utah’s reputation as being unfriendly to drinkers. Governor Herbert, a Mormon, denied the bill was motivated for religious reasons. Instead, he said the bill’s impetus arose out of concern for public safety.
Proponents said the law will make it clear that when in Utah you should think twice about drinking and driving, no matter how little alcohol you may have consumed.
As one might imagine, restaurant groups are not happy with the new law. They say while they don’t advocate drunk driving, a 0.05 blood alcohol limit is too low to catch drivers actually impaired from consuming alcohol.
Soon after the governor signed the bill, the American Beverage Institute, a national restaurant group, took out full page newspaper ads both in Utah and nationally featuring a fake mugshot under a large headline reading “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.” The Institute had requested Governor Herbert to veto the bill, calling it an attack on Utah’s hospitality and tourism industries.
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in Washington, D.C. applauded the new law, calling it “a sensible solution” to combat drunk driving.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Norm Thurston, noted this is the second time Utah has departed from the national norms for DUI thresholds. The first time was in 1983 when Utah became the first state to lower its blood alcohol limit to 0.08. Despite the change, tourism flourished.
Utah’s Tourism Office said it isn’t concerned about any negative effects on tourism as a result of the new law. The Office noted numerous foreign countries, such as France, Italy and Australia have similar laws which haven’t discouraged visitors.
For several years the National Transportation Safety Board has encouraged states to reduce their blood alcohol content thresholds to 0.05 or lower. But, this effort has been strongly resisted by the hospitality industry. Legislation recently was proposed in both Washington and Hawaii to lower their blood alcohol content levels for DUIs to 0.05 but never passed.
The new law in Utah will become effective December 30, 2018. To fully appreciate the new law, the American Beverage Institute claims a 150 pound man would be over the 0.05 limit after consuming two regular beers, while a 120 pound woman would exceed it after a single drink.
While not as tough as the new Utah DUI laws, Florida is a notoriously unhospitable state within which to be arrested for DUI. On top of that, within Florida, Duval, Nassau and Clay counties have some of the more strict enforcement and prosecution of DUIs in the entire state. If you have been arrested for DUI, you should immediately consult with a Jacksonville DUI attorney due to the tough DUI laws here and the short time frame within which you have to preserve any challenges to suspension of your driver’s license as a result of your arrest.