New York Looks to Lower DWI Limit

February 21, 2023 Drunk Driving/DUI

Driving under the influence can have serious consequences for the driver and those around them. A recent push by New York lawmakers is trying to bring harsher penalties in an attempt to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Our latest article covers the new proposed change along with information on the various DUI charges and how this might affect people in Florida.

What is the story?

New York lawmakers are seeking to lower the legal blood alcohol limit to prevent drunk driving and fatal accidents on the roads. New York would be the second state in the U.S. to enact this change if the proposed law passes.

The legislation was reintroduced by Senator John Liu, along with backing from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.

The proposed measure would change the blood alcohol content level (BAC) from .08 to .05. That means any person who is pulled over on the presumption of drunk driving can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) for having only .05 BAC of alcohol.

“We have seen in recent years a continual increase in the number of deaths related to drinking while driving,” Liu stated in a press conference at the State Capitol. “The trend is up. It’s totally unacceptable and we can do something about this.”

In New York, as well as most states across the U.S., getting caught driving while under the influence of alcohol can result in criminal charges, fines, possible jail time, and possibly losing driving privileges.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles in New York, one-third of fatalities involve drivers who are either impaired or intoxicated. Currently, a person in New York with a BAC level between .05 and .08, or other evidence of impairment can be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol “DWAI”. This is a lesser charge than a DWI, and carries lower penalties if convicted. Lowering the BAC level will allow law enforcement to charge drivers more harshly. A DWAI charge can result in penalties of up to 1 year in jail, a $500-1,000 fine, having your Driver’s License revoked for at least 6 months, or any combination of the above.

Commissioner Rodriguez said that Mayor Adams is passionate about the bill, and that New York is hoping to see it passed later this year. “As the Adams administration has made clear: 2023 is the year we combat the most aggressive and dangerous drivers on the road,” Rodriguez said. “Since the pandemic, we have seen an alarming increase in high-speed car wrecks, especially on highways, very often fueled by the deadly combination of driving under the influence.”

Alisa McMorris, a citizen whose son was tragically killed by a drunk driver in 2018, said that change is necessary to prevent any families from suffering from their own loss. “Andrew was ripped from our family, his sister, friends, teachers and scouts,” McMorris said. “Impaired driving leads to tragedy every single day on our roads and we want to make our roads safer so no other family has to endure this 100% preventable loss.” 

Using Other States as Guidance

New York is not the first state aiming for lower BAC limits. Both Hawaii and Washington are looking to lower their limit as well. The National Transportation Safety Board sent out a recommendation in 2012 for states to lower their BAC limit to .05. The only state which has complied so far is Utah.

In February 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a study on the impact that Utah had by lowering its BAC level. The study explained that the Governor of Utah signed HB 155 on March 23rd, 2017. Once the law went into effect, it made law enforcement adopt an impaired driving per se BAC limit lower than .08.

The study covered the 21 months after the law was passed and made the new BAC limit .05. After analyzing Utah’s monthly State crash data, the study showed there were reductions in almost all crashes, with fewer crashes and lower rates of alcohol involvement. The rate of fatality in Utah fell by 18.3%, and the fatal crash rate decreased by 19.8% after the limit was lowered.

In addition, there were no large spikes in overall DUI arrests in Utah, aside from a portion of arrests in 2019 when drivers were measured between .05 and .079—which was expected due to the decrease in BAC level.

Overall, the study concluded that there were positive impacts demonstrated on the highways in Utah. The reduction in crashes and alcohol involvement in those crashes implies that the stricter law was having a positive effect on the roadways.

Florida’s Stance and Penalties for a DUI

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 19,891 alcohol-related crashes and 1,238 alcohol related fatalities in 2020. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in Florida if the driver’s BAC level is .08% or higher. These limits apply to all types of vehicles including cars, trucks, and boats.

Florida Statute Section 316.193 covers the law for driving under the influence (DUI). The Statute outlines the criminal offense for a DUI, along with the penalties for a DUI conviction.

Any person who is convicted of a first-time DUI offense will have to pay a fine between $500 and $1,000 and up to six months of imprisonment. For a second offense, the fine is between $1,000 and $2,000, with up to nine months of imprisonment. In addition, a second offense results in a mandatory placement for at least one year of an ignition interlock device upon all of the defendant’s vehicles.

To find out more about the penalties for a DUI in Florida, read our informative page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Although New York’s proposed legislation does not affect drivers in Florida, it is important to note that other states are looking to lower their BAC levels. If Florida were to propose and adopt similar legislation, it could mean that more Floridians might get arrested and charged with a DUI offense.

If you or someone you love has been accused of a DUI offense in Florida, your first step should be to seek out a defense attorney in your area. A skilled attorney will review all case details and strategize a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience getting DUI charges in Florida dropped or dismissed. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, contact Pumphrey Law Firm at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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