Recent news articles are discussing potential changes to the blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) laws. While this is not happening in every state right now, it is important to keep on top of the changes and to understand what they will mean for drivers once they are implemented and if other states may follow in the future.

General DWI Laws and Penalties

Throughout the US, BAC laws have generally been set to .08% for non-commercial drivers aged 21 or older. If someone is pulled over and their BAC is over .08%, they can be arrested and charged with a DWI or DUI. At this point, they will need to work with a Fort Worth DWI Lawyer to get help, as they are facing a criminal charge that can come with fines, jail time, probation, community service, and other penalties. They also risk losing their driver’s license for a period of time. The exact penalties can vary from state to state.

The History of BAC Limits Throughout the US

Before 1998, states had different BAC limits in place, and laws for BAC limits changed throughout the years. Some states had BAC limits as high as .15%, while most had a BAC of .1%. The BAC in Tennessee for a few years was only .04%. In 1998, President Clinton signed into law a change that maximized the BAC limit for all states at .08%. States were free to choose a BAC limit lower than this, but it could not be higher. Since that time, all states have had a BAC limit of .08% to comply with federal laws.

Which States are Proposing Changes?

Recently, some states have proposed changes to lower the BAC limit, effectively making it a DWI even if a driver has a lower BAC than the standard .08%. The intended goal is to help reduce the amount of alcohol-related crashes and deaths, and to encourage drivers to choose safer options if they do decide to drink while they’re out. These lower limits are already in place in many countries around the world, and studies have shown that lowering the limit can help reduce the number of crashes involving alcohol.

What Changes are Being Considered or Implemented?

Utah has already implemented changes in its BAC limits by lowering it to .05%. This went into place in 2018 and is still being followed. Advocates in Hawaii and Washington are pushing for the limit to be reduced to .05%, and there are laws being written to reflect this, though they have not been passed. New York is also working on creating a law to reduce the BAC limit for the state, but they are proposing a reduction to .06%. Other states may be considering a reduction in the BAC limit, though there are no actions in place yet to support new laws to this effect.

Drivers must be aware of the BAC limits in their state, especially in areas that are considering changes. They must also be aware of what happens if they are stopped and test higher than the BAC limit, and what they can do if they are arrested and charged with a DWI. It is crucial to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible, as they may be able to minimize the penalties they’re facing. Remember, it is always better to choose another option to get home instead of risking driving while intoxicated.