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Tiered Penalty System Looks Less Likely For .05 DUI Law

istock / aijohn784

There’s been a lot of debate about a new law that lowers the legal DUI blood alcohol limit from .08 percent to .05 percent. Now it’s looking like that law may not change much, if at all, before it goes into effect.

Some lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert have expressed interest in adopting a tiered penalty system, where consequences are lower for those arrested with a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08.

But the bill’s author, Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said he doesn’t think the law itself needs to be changed at all.

"Anything that we would do, short of going to a .04, would come at the expense of lives saved," Thurston said. "I just don’t see any reason for us to negotiate on the number of lives that we’re going to save."

The Provo Republican said a lesser penalty for those arrested with a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 would weaken the new law's effect on deterring people from getting behind the wheel after even one or two drinks.

This week the state’s Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council also voted to support the bill as it stands now, without a tiered penalty system.

Some lawmakers are still concerned with other aspects of the law, including language which categorizes recent immigrants as "novice drivers." That means they could face harsh consequences for driving with even a drop of alcohol in their system.

"These could be people who could have been driving for decades in other countries," said Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville. “"t’s going to impact them and I think that’s unfair," she said.

Thurston said he’s already planning to make that change, and a few others, during the upcoming legislative session that would lessen some unintended impacts.

That could include an overhaul of laws that currently hold a restaurant liable for DUI injuries, known as dram shop laws.

The new .05 law takes effect Dec. 30, 2018.

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