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NTSB recommends 0.05 DUI

Perhaps you’ve heard the recent slogan, buzzed driving is drunk driving. On that note, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a new, lower threshold for DUIs – 0.05 Blood Alcohol Content. In support of their recommendation, the National Transportation Safety Board cites a study that found about 10,000 people die each year in drunk driving accidents. About 30 years ago states began to lower the legal limit from 0.10 to 0.08. California lowered its 0.10 BAC DUI per se law to 0.08 on January 1, 1990. There were approximately 20,000 DUI-related fatalities in 1983. Some will argue lowering the BAC reduced the number of fatalities. Others with argue automobiles have become much safer in the last 30 years.

Regardless of how you feel about the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation to lower the BAC from 0.08 to 0.05 it would not impact Vehicle Code section 23152(a). Under Vehicle Code section 23152(a), you are guilty of DUI if you drive under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug. Therefore, under current California law, you are guilty of DUI if you are “under the influence” with a BAC of 0.07, 0.05 or even 0.01. However, in the case of a 0.05 DUI under Vehicle Code section 23152(a), the prosecutor must prove that you were “under the influence” at the time of driving – which typically means alcohol and/or drugs caused you to unsafely operate your vehicle.

If California adopts the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation, it would lower the legal limit to 0.05 in Vehicle Code section 23152(b). In section (b) of Vehicle Code section 23152, there is no “under the influence” requirement like there is in section (a). Under section (b), as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board, the prosecutor would only have to prove that your BAC was 0.05 or more at the time of the driving – not that you were under the influence. Interesting fact, in Alabama, if your blood alcohol level is 0.05, you are presumed not to be under the influence of alcohol.

Would the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation to lower the BAC level to 0.05 further reduce alcohol-related fatalities? Maybe, I don’t know… but I do know one thing – court fines and fees for a DUI conviction, which are about $2,000, won’t be lowered any time soon.