New Utah Law Sets State BAC Limit to Only .05%

Utah is not backing down from a tougher stance on drunk-driving, standing by a law it passed earlier in 2017 that brought the state’s maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to 0.05%. The law, scheduled to take effect in 2018, will fine offenders over $1,300 and confiscate their licenses for at least 90 days.

The law has elicited polarizing reactions both in and out of the state. Advocates of road safety, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), supported the measure, and still hope for further deterrents against impaired driving.

On the other hand, groups like the American Beverage Institute questioned the law’s expected impact on curbing vehicular accidents. They noted that drivers with 0.05% BAC are less impaired than drivers using cellphones behind the wheel.

Health experts also pointed out that different people reach a state of impairment in different ways, depending on factors like weight, body type, and rate of consumption.

A Raleigh DWI lawyer’s perspective

While drunk driving must be effectively curbed in an effort to promote safety, at Kurtz & Blum we strongly feel that reducing the BAC limit to only .05% is very low. The nationwide standard for considering a person legally impaired has remained at .08% for many years as the number of alcohol-related deaths has dramatically tumbled. This is the benchmark North Carolina follows, even as it enacts more stringent laws on drunk driving, especially among people under 21 years old.

Utah’s new law will set a precedent for other states to follow. However, pursuing a lower maximum BAC limit should be made based on scientific studies about how effective a lower limit might be.

There is still hope that Utah will explore a “tiered punishment system”, with lighter penalties for individuals with lower BAC (e.g. below .08%) and heavier ones for those with higher BAC (e.g. above 0.08%). If this gains traction, there should also be more solid research on how to fairly penalize people with BACs between .05% to .08% — if they should be punished at all.

Assistance in DWI cases

Kurtz & Blum, PLLC certainly does not condone drunk driving. Yet we know that fines associated with it could significantly impact a person’s income, and that penalties could impair one’s ability to earn a living.

If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI an experienced DWI lawyer can help assess the events leading to the arrest, minimize the potential fines and penalties, and help get you back on the road swiftly, safely – and more responsibly.


  • State council recommends no changes to Utah’s new DUI law,
  • Utah cuts DUI alcohol limit to lowest level in U.S.; law also affects gun owners,
  • DUI & DWI in North Carolina,