SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Highway Patrol troopers have made their first arrest under the state’s new lowered DUI threshold.
Utah’s new 0.05-percent blood-alcohol level limit is the lowest in the United States, and has been active since Dec. 31.
The National Transportation Safety Board supports the new limit, saying it would save lives if adopted nationwide. But critics worry it will punish responsible drinkers, hurt Utah’s tourism industry and amplify the state’s alcohol-unfriendly reputation.
Sgt. Nick Street says the Tuesday-morning arrest would have happened before the law went into effect, but the measure makes it more likely that the Wyoming man will face criminal charges.
He says the man was pulled over as he drove home from a rave party after a female passenger reported he had elbowed her in the face.
Street says an initial test showed a blood-alcohol level above .08, but took two hours before he was tested on a Breathalyzer that is admissible in court. He was then measured at .059 percent.
Nothing new on New Year’s
Utah Highway Patrol officials said Monday they didn’t make any arrests under a lowered DUI threshold in the first 24 hours after the law took effect.
Eight DUI arrests were made on New Year’s Eve, but all were over the old threshold of 0.08 percent blood-alcohol limit, Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich said.
“There are a ton of options out there that don’t involve driving yourself home,” he said.
For Utah lawmakers, the change is a safety measure aimed at encouraging people not to drive at all if they’ve been drinking.
The change was easily approved in 2017 by the Legislature, which is mostly Mormon and mostly Republican, and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religion teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.
Rapich said troopers aren’t doing anything different and continue to target impaired drivers rather than trying to find drinkers who cross the new threshold.
“We don’t target 0.05, 0.06, 0.077,” Rapich said. “We go out and actively look for opportunities to interdict impaired drivers.”