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Another state considers lowering DUI BAC limit to 0.05 percent

The state of California is considering two, tough new DUI bills. One would lower the per se blood alcohol content (BAC) for a DUI to 0.05 percent, following the lead of Utah and the recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board. The other bill would make a fifth DUI within 10 years a felony offense.

As we've mentioned before on this blog, changes to other states' drunk driving laws are important to Tennesseans for a couple of reasons. First, you may travel to those states and run afoul of the new laws. Second, the changes may be part of a trend that could eventually come to Tennessee. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board has been urging states around the country to lower their BAC limits to 0.05.

0.05 standard already catching on abroad

In its report on the subject, the agency determined that "BAC levels higher than 0.05 are viewed by respected traffic safety and public health organizations around the world as posing unacceptable risk for driving." It noted that over 100 countries have already adopted the 0.05 percent standard or lower.

According to the Sacramento Bee, traffic fatalities involving alcohol impairment of at least 0.08 percent jumped by 16.3 percent between 2015 and 2016 in California. However, it is unclear how many crashes and fatalities are being caused by people with a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.08.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 160-pound woman could reach 0.05 percent after only one drink. Men under 200 pounds could reach it after only two drinks.

Additional harsh penalties proposed for repeat drunk drivers

Currently, California law leaves it up to the prosecutor to charge either a misdemeanor or felony after a third or subsequent offense. Under the proposal, a fifth DUI conviction would automatically be a felony if it occurred within 10 years of the first offense. Jail time would range from 180 days and a year and the fine would be between $390 and $1,000. The person's driver's license would be revoked.

On top of those penalties, the proposal would impound the offender's car whenever a prior DUI offense had occurred within the past 10 years. The terms of impoundment would increase after each repeat violation. The court would be allowed to seize certain repeat offenders' cars altogether.

Tennessee already has very serious penalties for repeat DUI. Fourth and subsequent offenses are charged as Class E felonies with a number of harsh consequences, including jail time of at least 150 consecutive days up to two years for a standard offender, a fine of between $3,000 and $15,000, an 8-year driver's license revocation, vehicle forfeiture, an ignition interlock requirement and more.

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