Utah’s .05 DUI law will get tweaked, maybe even repealed

SALT LAKE CITY -- A state lawmaker has opened a bill in the legislature to make changes to Utah's controversial .05 DUI law, but she is not ruling out a repeal of it.

"What we need to do is look at trying to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish in terms of public safety and doing it in a way that doesn’t have these unintended consequences," Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, told FOX 13 on Tuesday. "If that means repealing the law, I’m all for it."

Rep. Kwan, who sits on the legislature's transportation committee, has been part of a group reviewing the law since it was signed by the governor earlier this year. She said initially, she wants to address a provision of the law that prohibits immigrants from drinking at all if they seek a valid Utah driver license.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper makes a suspected DUI arrest in a 2015 bust. (FOX 13 file image)

"I find that is unhelpful and discriminatory toward our immigrant drivers," she said.

Another part of the law could mean concealed weapon permit holders would face severe sanctions if they were to ever be arrested for a .05 DUI.

"I think a lot of our constituents may not realize how it impacts concealed carry with our firearms," she added.

But Rep. Kwan told FOX 13 she was not ruling out seeking an all-out repeal of the controversial law that makes Utah the toughest in America when it comes to DUI. Since it passed, the law has faced protests and a campaign designed to discourage people from visiting Utah. Most recently, the American Beverage Institute targeted senior lawmakers over the law.

"Personally, I would love to see a repeal. I’m not sure that will happen," Rep. Kwan said.

The sponsor of the original law, Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said he would resist a repeal.

"I see no reason for a repeal," he told FOX 13 on Tuesday. "We have evidence to show it's working. There may be modifications needed."

A man holds a sign at a March 17 rally against House Bill 155, which lowers the DUI BAC to .05 in Utah. (Photo by Eric Weseman, FOX 13 News)

After signing it into law, Governor Gary Herbert ordered a review to address "unintended consequences." Rep. Kwan said her bill would address some of those before the law goes into effect at the end of 2018.

"Nobody wants to have drunk drivers on the road," she said. "Let’s do it in a way that’s smarter than emotional."