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California, New York weigh lowering DUI standard to 0.05 percent

States around the nation are now considering lowering their per se DUI standards from 0.08percent blood alcohol content down to 0.05 percent. In 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board began recommending that all states adopt the lower standard, although so far, only Utah has done so.

The idea of lowering the DUI standard to 0.05 percent appears to be gaining steam around the nation. Recently, legislators from New York and California introduced bills to lower the standard. As more states continue to debate the issue, someone is sure to introduce the measure in Tennessee.

A 2015 AAA study found that 63 percent of Americans would support a 0.05 percent standard. And, beyond the NTSB, the American Medical Association, the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine and the World Health Organization also support lowering the standard to 0.05 percent.

Opponents of the lower standard include the American Beverage Institute, an industry group. It argues that 92 percent of fatal drunk-driving accidents involve a driver whose blood alcohol level was 0.10 percent or higher. Measures to reduce the per se DUI level from 0.08 to 0.05 will direct limited resources at detecting low-level impairment among moderate drinkers rather than thigh-BAC offenders.

"These are the criminals lawmakers should be targeting, rather subjecting someone who enjoys a drink or two over dinner with all the life-ruining consequences of a DWI," said a spokesperson for the American Beverage Institute.

California's bill to reduce the DUI limit also contains a proposal to require an ignition interlock device on a defendant's car after a first offense DUI. In Tennessee, judges can already order an ignition interlock after a first offense.

The consequences for DUI are already serious at 0.08 percent

The American Beverage Institute is correct when they call the consequences of DUI "life-ruining." Even where the DUI standard remains 0.08 percent, and even when no one was harmed, a first-time Tennessee DUI conviction can mean:

  • Minimum of 48 hours and up to a year in jail
  • At least 7 consecutive days in jail for a BAC of 0.20 or higher
  • License revocation for a year
  • Possible court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment
  • A fine of between $350 and $1,500
  • Possible ignition interlock installed and maintained at your expense
  • Towing
  • Bail
  • Court costs
  •  License reinstatement fees
  • High-risk insurance

And, with a DUI on your record, the consequences for any future DUI gets more serious. This is why you can't afford to plead guilty to a DUI charge without first talking to an experienced attorney about your legal rights and options.

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