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Should Georgia's DUI blood alcohol level be cut to .05 percent?

There is a move afoot to lower the threshold level for a DUI charge nationally from .08 percent to .05 percent. While each state sets its own standard, the federal National Transportation Safety Board has recommended the action, and it will likely be considered in Georgia as well as other jurisdictions. It took over two decades for the NTSB to convince states to lower the level from .10 percent to .08 percent, which was ultimately accomplished in 1982. Nevertheless, the NTSB argues that lowering the standard may be an important factor in limiting DUI related car accidents.

The suggestion is not without its detractors. Even MADD, the noted nonprofit group that fights against drunk driving and lobbies for stricter laws, has taken a neutral approach to the proposal. Some say a change to the lower DUI level could decimate the restaurant industry. Indeed, some estimates suggest that as much as 40 percent of the average restaurant's income comes from beer and alcohol sales. The argument is that a change in the law will punish responsible drivers while doing little for compulsive drinkers that ignore the applicable laws entirely.

Moreover, it has been suggested that a change in the law could negatively impact the economy in Georgia. It is estimated that restaurants account for nearly 400,000 jobs in our state. While MADD has focused on the fact that educational programs are important, the statistics suggest that substantial progress has been made with the BAC levels at .08 percent. Indeed, it was noted that fatal accidents attributable to DUI were reduced by almost 42 percent in the time period from 2001 to 2011.

As the debate about BAC levels rages, those facing a DUI charge often confront an intimidating criminal justice system. The penalties for conviction are already severe. Fines, loss of driving privileges and even jail time are possible. As politicians debate what, if anything, should be done about the current laws, those facing drunk driving allegations are entitled to all of the protections that apply to anyone accused of a crime in Georgia. The best first place to start is a careful review of the formal charges and any evidence prosecutors intend to offer in court in support of their allegations.

Source: Creative Loafing Atlanta, "Should Georgia lower its BAC level?" Gina Yu, May 23, 2013