Tennessee has some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation — but other states are working to crack down on drunk driving, too. This could affect you when you travel to other states, and it potentially could indicate how Tennessee may deal with the issue in the future. Changes to DUI laws are often part of trends, as advocacy groups and regulators take their proposals from state to state.
Utah lowers its DUI standard to 0.05 percent
As we’ve discussed before on this blog, Utah just became the first state to lower its per se DUI threshold to 0.05 percent. In 1983, Utah was the first state to adopt the 0.08 percent standard that is now the law in Tennessee and all other states. Is Utah the pioneer again, giving us notice of how drinking and driving will be judged in the future?
The 0.05 standard cuts the acceptable level of alcohol consumption almost in half. For example, according to NPR, an average 180-pound man reaches a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 after about four drinks. The same man could reach a BAC of 0.05 after only two drinks. An average woman could reach 0.05 after even fewer drinks.
Despite protests from industry groups like the American Beverage Institute, the National Transportation Safety Board has been urging states to adopt the 0.05 per se standard since 2013. The American Beverage Institute is concerned that the new standard will criminalize drinkers who are well below actual impairment.
Pennsylvania makes habitual drunk driving a felony
Here in Tennessee, a fourth or subsequent DUI offense is a Class E felony. Until now in Pennsylvania, even repeat DUIs with high BAC levels were misdemeanors. Now, Pennsylvania has created two felony categories for repeat DUIs:
- A third DUI offense within a decade with a BAC of 0.16 or higher
- Any fourth DUI offense
In addition, Pennsylvania increased the jail time for DUIs resulting in unintentional death and toughened the penalties for DUI offenders who drive on suspended licenses.
According to the Associated Press, Pennsylvania has approximately 250,000 repeat DUI offenders and some 140,000 people with suspended licenses due to a DUI.
You need to fight that DUI charge
Even as other states increase the penalties and lower the limits for DUI, Tennessee already has strict DUI laws. Even a single DUI conviction means serious penalties, and those penalties become more severe for repeat offenses. If you are arrested for driving drunk in Tennessee, you can’t afford to just give up and plead guilty. You need to fight the charges with an experienced attorney at your side.