A recent study released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is asking for a change to lower the current legal level for blood alcohol concentration from 0.08 BAC to 0.05 BAC. Additionally, it requests further regulations that they claim could help prevent deaths related to alcohol.  The regulations would include “increasing alcohol taxes significantly, strengthening policies to prevent illegal alcohol sales to people under 21 and to already-intoxicated adults, enacting all-offender ignition interlock laws, and providing effective treatment for offenders when needed.”

The agency is currently hoping for a lower nationwide blood alcohol content level, citing countries such as Denmark, Japan, and Austria, all of whom have experienced decreased amount of fatalities since lowering their blood alcohol content levels from 0.08 BAC to 0.05 BAC.

The State of Delaware is currently debating whether to make the change to their DWI/DUI laws.  The American Beverage Institute (ABI) is adamantly opposed to the reduction claiming that it will have a negative effect on the hospitality industry.   The Executive Director of the ABI has stated:

“The .05 limit is so low that it would essentially mean a 120 lb. woman would be in a position of being arrested after a single drink,” said Longwell. “It’s going to have a tremendous chilling affect [sic] on moderate, social drinkers who otherwise would have gone out to happy hour dinner, split a bottle of wine with their spouse. At this point, splitting a bottle of wine with your spouse would put you absolutely in a place where you would get arrested if you drove home.”

A fellow DWI lawyer in Houston was quoted in the Chronicle following the release of the study:

“It’s interesting because when I was younger, the limit was .10 and now it’s .08. Human bodies didn’t change, the science is the same, the rules are just getting stricter. Going from .10 to .08 was a difference of about one drink. Going from .08 to .05 is probably going to be a difference of about two drinks.”

The study found that approximately one-third of traffic fatalities occurring since 1982 all involved alcohol. Back in 2010, according to the study, accidents caused upwards of $121.5 billion in damages, including costs associated with vehicle damages, earning losses, medical costs, and more.

It will be interesting to see in the upcoming legislative session this summer whether Texas follows Delaware’s lead.  We’ll revisit this topic in September after the new laws take effect.

Thank you for visiting Collin Evan’s blog, a Houston criminal defense attorney. We write to inform locals about current events, news and law changes.