Justice

National Traffic Safety Board Recommends BAC .05 for Impairment

This topic was reported heavily the other day after NTSB came out recommending all states change their laws to a .05 intoxication level. Right now states are at a .08, including North Carolina. Driving while impaired cases and deaths are the main reason of concern and the focus on any decrease in the definition of intoxication. In the broader scope of things, this may be just another effort to assure DWI/DUI convictions. While most DWI cases are not won at hearing or trial because they are a .08 or less, if this were to be the new level of intoxication it would make Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTS) more powerful for probable cause to arrest someone for DWI. The reason being, while I think the NHTSA would have to re-evaluate their tests, it could mean a passing score right now on a One-leg stand or HGN may still give a judge enough concern to see probable cause. Obviously it is way to early to truly speculate as to all of the ramifications if this new law were implemented, but there still should be a concern about citizens rights if this law came about without new SFST testing standards (which are based on the higher BAC).

Overall the passage of any new laws will likely be the result of federal government pressure by limiting highway funding or other alternatives. The federal government has not taken a stance on the issue yet, but it may only be a matter of time. This BAC level currently exists in many European countries and Australia, where they have much less DWI related fatalities as we do here in the States. While it is always important to be safe when driving an automobile of any sorts, if this lower BAC were to be presented as law there would be plenty of outrage and discussion. It will be interesting to see how this recommendation plays out over the next year or so as DWI deaths continue to be a pressing concern for almost all communities.

May 15th, 2013

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