Utah has the lowest DUI limit in the nation now that Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a bill into law making it .05 percent. But Herbert also signed two other bills this week dealing with DUI penalties.
One of the bills is Rep. Justin Fawson’s House Bill 250. It would adopt a 24/7 sobriety program for DUI offenders similar to one in Montana.
“This program allows (offenders) to keep their license, but they have to show up at a location twice a day and take a breathalyzer test. And they have to be absolutely clean,” Fawson says.
The program costs nothing for the state or local governments because DUI offenders pay for their twice-daily tests out of pocket. For alcohol testing, Fawson says that usually costs between six and $12 for each sobriety test.
According to the Montana Attorney General’s office, the 24/7 sobriety program has a 99 percent success rate.
Another bill Herbert signed will require jail time for repeat DUI offenders. Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason told a legislative committee earlier in March that home confinement or community service sentences are not effective deterrents, and if the state wants to make an impact, it will send offenders to jail.
“The ten days of jail time can be split up at the discretion of the court or the jail,” Eliason said. “So, an individual could spend five weekends in jail and still maintain their job. Under the current law, it’s 10 consecutive days in jail.”
Eliason and Fawson have both said they want stricter punishments for people convicted of a DUI, but they want sentencing options that allow offenders to keep their jobs.
“The legislature is very concerned about drinking and driving,” Fawson says, “and I think the message has been very clear this session that you should not drink and drive, ever.”
It’s unclear how these three bills could collectively impact someone convicted of a DUI, especially since Gov. Herbert has called for changes to the .05 BAC bill before it goes into effect at the end of 2018.