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Proposed Lowering of DUI Standard Considered by Georgia

The National Transportation Safety Board is pushing for a nationwide lowering of the DUI standard to 0.05.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has embraced this idea and will be seeking Congressional Funding to offer a "carrot", i.e. grant money, to states that will move forward with adopting the lowered standard.  If history is any indication, this will be followed by efforts to wield a stick to force the stragglers along, likely in the form of taking away highway funds.

At least so far, Georgia elected officials have not taken a position on whether this would be a welcome change to Georgia law.   In a Gainesville Times articleGainesville Times article, it was reported that the Governor and others asked about it at a BUI law signing ceremony in Hall County indicated the need for a lot more facts before taking a position.

The NTSB claims that there were about 1,000 deaths last year that involved wrecks where a driver had a BAC between 0.050 and 0.079.  This does not mean that the wrecks were caused by that driver or that the presence of that level of alcohol caused or contributed to the wreck.

In Georgia, a BAC of 0.50 or below allows the fact finder in a trial to infer that the person is not under the influence of alcohol.  A reading above 0.050 but below 0.080 does not create an inference in either direction.

The NTSB's proposed level would put the illegal level down to a point where Georgia may not consider the person to be impaired.

In general, governments criminalize behavior that causes harm to specific individuals or to society in general.  If a person who has consumed a small amount of alcohol does not pose an appreciably greater risk of harm, then what is the government interest in criminalizing that behavior?  That stated, some governments in northern Europe have gone far lower than 0.05, setting limits that basically establish a "no tolerance" policy for drinking and driving, taking into account the margin of error for the testing devices.

If you are facing a DUI in Northeast Georgia, contact us immediately to find out what we can do to assist you in trying to avoid conviction.  Sean A. Black is an experienced and well-trained advocate for persons facing DUI charges and other serious criminal and traffic offenses.

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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