Although in all other states in the U.S. the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher, Utah sets that limit at .05 for drivers 21 years of age and older. Thus, if you're pulled over on suspicion of drinking and driving and a blood or breath test shows you have a BAC at or above that level, you may be charged with a DUI. However, if you're under 21 years of age, having any alcohol in your system while you are operating a vehicle in the state can result in a criminal charge.
Utah's DUI limit is the strictest in the country. It was set at that level in December of 2018 in an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving-related accidents, injuries, and deaths. It may be a few years before it can be determined whether the drop in the BAC level will have its intended effect.
What Does BAC Indicate?
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, it gets processed by your liver. But, your liver can only break down about one 12-ounce drink per hour. If you consume more than that, any alcohol your liver has yet to process will stay in your bloodstream.
The alcohol remaining in your system can have various effects on your behavior, judgment, and motor functions.
Your BAC indicates how much alcohol you have in your system. If a cop suspects that you might have driven while intoxicated, they may request that you take a blood or breath test to determine your alcohol concentration level.
What Are the Effects of Alcohol?
Because alcohol affects people differently, how you respond after two drinks may be different from another person.
Various factors can impact alcohol's influence, including:
- Food consumption
That being said, common symptoms apparent at a BAC of .05 include, but are not limited to:
- Blurred vision
- Impaired judgment
- Reduced coordination
- Lowered inhibitions
As the BAC increases, so to can the effects of alcohol.
What If BAC Is Less Than .05?
In Utah, the legal BAC limit may be .05, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can be charged with a DUI only if you're at or above that level. Again, alcohol affects people differently, and even at .02, your judgment or response times may be decreased. Therefore, if you get behind the wheel after consuming one or two drinks, your ability to safely drive may be compromised.
Utah's DUI law contains a provision for such circumstances. It states that a person is committing an offense if they are in actual or physical control of a vehicle and "is under the influence of alcohol [...] to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle." (Utah Code 41-6a-502(1)(b)). Thus, if your BAC is less than .05, you may still be charged with driving under the influence.
At Lokken & Putnam, P.C., our attorneys provide aggressive defense for those facing DUI charges in Salt Lake City. If you've been charged, call us at (801) 829-9783 or contact us online today.