When it comes to arrests for driving while intoxicated (DWI), every state creates its own guidelines. While each state prosecutes a driver based on blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the legal limit could theoretically vary across state lines, but up until 2019, the legal limit was the same across the United States at .08%.
Utah changed that with a new law that came into effect in 2019. Utah is the first state to lower its BAC to .05%. This is familiar territory for Utah – it was also the first state to lower the legal limit to .08% from .10%. After Utah, in the late 1990s, a legislative push resulted in other states following suit and lowering the legal limit to .08 BAC.
Now, Utah is the first to respond to calls for further movement. Other states, like California and Washington, have also considered similar measures. Texas is not one of these states, and for good reason: the reduced BAC level doesn't do anything to reduce DWIs; it only serves to put restrictions on your freedom.
Recommendations on Lowering the Legal Limit
There have been calls among advocacy groups to further reduce the legal limit nationwide for years. In September of 2019, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) weighed in, calling for a reduction in the legal limit to .05% BAC. While the NTSB head suggested this change would dramatically alter the number of drunken driving accidents, evidence suggests it will do little to curb driving under the influence.
Does a lower limit actually help?
Utah adopted these strict BAC standards in December of 2018. Given the short amount of time, there are only so many inferences that can be drawn from Utah DWI arrest data. However, initial results for the six months after the limit was lowered indicates that arrests for drunken driving have actually increased.
According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, arrests for driving under the influence increased by 4.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019. While the sample size is small, nearly all of the arrests involved failed BAC tests.
So far, the evidence suggests lowering a state's legal limit does little to deter driving while intoxicated. This is problematic, as deterrence is one of the major selling points for lowering the legal limit. Additional arrests will ultimately require more resources, and states could ultimately wind up spending their budget prosecuting drivers that are not impaired or otherwise illegally intoxicated instead of using it for more proven methods to deter driving under the influence.
DWI Help in Houston
To date, Texas per se legal limit remains .08 percent, and there is no suggestion the state will follow Utah to lower it. But it's also important to remember that you can still be arrested for drunk driving in Texas even if your BAC is under .08%. If your faculties appear impaired, an officer can arrest you. It could be that the officer suspects, if not alcohol, then drugged driving. It all depends on the circumstances and the officer's assumptions and perceptions.
If you have been arrested for DWI in Houston, you can fight the charge. While a positive outcome is never guaranteed, working with a Board Certified expert in DWI defense law offers you the best chance of prevailing at trial. To discuss potential defense strategies in your case, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.