38 arrested under Utah’s strict new .05 DUI law

SALT LAKE CITY — New figures provided to FOX 13 show 38 people have been arrested under Utah’s strict new .05 DUI law.

The Utah Department of Public Safety said that in January 2019, the first month the controversial new law had been implemented, 844 people had been arrested statewide. Of those, 38 people were arrested for a blood alcohol level from .05 to .079.

Breaking it down:

  • 7 were people under the age of 21 (which is not a drop)
  •  24 were alcohol restricted drivers, meaning they had previously had been arrested for a DUI
  • 2 were arrested with a combination of prescription drugs and/or illegal drugs in their system as well
  •  1 refused a  field sobriety or chemical draw and a warrant had to be issued that came back positive
  •  4 were arrested with a BAC of .05 to .079 being the only issue.

Sgt. Nicholas Street of the Utah Highway Patrol said the numbers showed the arrests were based on impairment (which is the legal standard for pulling someone over).

“We’re happy to see troopers still making arrests based on impairment,” he said. “We think based on those numbers it’s the same for all law enforcement across the state.”

The numbers were provided after FOX 13 requested them. It typically takes 60 days for lab results to come back to confirm drunk driving. Michele Corigliano of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, which has opposed the new DUI law, said the results show the majority of the arrests aren’t for .05.

“These results are in line with our stand prior to the law: 33 of these arrests would have been illegal under the previous law: underage drinking, drugs, suspended license, etc. This is in line with our research, in that it does NOT show .05 is the reason for impairment,” she said in a text message.

Utah has the nation’s toughest anti-drunk driving law, which lowers the threshold from .08 to .05. The law was implemented over the objections of restaurant and hospitality groups who claimed it would scare people into staying home and hurting the local economy, as well as contributing to the perception that Utah has “weird” liquor laws.

Supporters of the .05 DUI law said that it’s designed to save lives and with the prevalence of rideshare programs, there is no excuse to drive drunk.

“It was never about the arrests. I’m far more interested in the reduction in crashes, injuries and deaths,” said Rep. Norm Thurston, who sponsored the .05 DUI law.

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