Salt Lake City, UT- Utah may have one of the lowest DUI rates in the country, but one lawmaker aims to toughen the state’s DUI laws and close a loophole he says too many people use to avoid conviction.
State Representative Lee Perry, who also happens to be a Lieutenant for the Utah Highway Patrol, introduced a bill in early February that would change the language of the state’s DUI statute.
Under the current language of the law, an individual can be arrested and charged with a DUI if they are impaired by drugs of alcohol to the “degree that it renders the a person incapable of safely operating a vehicle.”
Perry would like to change the law’s language so that anyone person who is “impaired to the slightest degree” can be charged.
Perry explained to the Salt Lake Tribune, “It would take away the argument some attorneys are using now.” He thinks by eliminating this loophole, fewer drunken drivers will be able to beat conviction because their DUI attorneys argue when police stop a driver for something other than erratic driving they have little evidence the driver is impaired and the stop is therefore undeserved.
Law enforcement agencies are not allowed to pull a driver over just to find out if they are intoxicated, they have to have “reasonable suspicion” that a driver is intoxicated before they can make a DUI stop. The change in the language would not eliminate the .08 blood alcohol limit. It would however give police the power to stop more people for minor traffic violations and result in more unjustified DUI arrests.
Perry’s legislation, H.B. 303, would still require police to conduct field sobriety tests and other tests to determine intoxication, but they would need less “reasonable suspicion” to pull a driver over.
Perry also introduced legislation that would allow police to pull over motorists if they are not wearing a seat belt. Along with legislation that would change civil law which would allow evidence of seat belt use or lack thereof in personal injury lawsuits, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
DUI attorneys like Melocowsky & Melocowsky argue changing the language of the law would put more motorists who are not impaired in danger of being pulled over and charged with a driving under the influence. For instance, a motorist who has had one beer and is not over the legal limit can get pulled over and run through a battery of tests because of a minor and insignificant traffic stop. They can even be unjustly arrested and charged with DUI and will have to spend thousands of dollars to defend themselves in court.
In spite of what lawmakers say about the scientific soundness of Breathalyzer tests, these devices can give inaccurate readings if they are not maintained properly or calibrated regularly. People who suffer from certain medical conditions, such as diabetes can register high blood alcohol levels even when they haven’t been drinking.
Anyone who has been arrested and charged with a DUI should retain a Salt Lake City DUI attorney to build a strong defense on their behalf and negate the serious consequences of such a charge.