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Could .05 percent BAL become drunk driving in Washington State?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2023 | Drunk Driving |

For years, the legal limit for blood-alcohol content for drivers in Washington State has been .08 percent. Indeed, 48 other states have adopted this as the definition of drunk driving. But some lawmakers in the state Senate want to change the law to a tougher standard.

Specifically, Senate Bill 5002 would lower the legal limit to .05 percent if passed. Depending on your size, tolerance and how quickly you consumed your drinks, this could mean you would face DUI charges if caught driving after finishing one and a half to two drinks, though one supporter, Sen. Marko Liias of Everett, claims a 200-lb. man would have to drink three beers in an hour to hit .05 percent BAC. Only Utah currently defines DUI as driving with a BAC this low.

Does .05 really mean you are too drunk to drive?

Experts at Stanford University say that someone with a BAC of .04 – .06 percent typically experiences “minor impairment of reasoning and memory,” as well as a relaxed feeling and a sense of warmth. Whether banning driving at this level of drinking would reduce car accidents is uncertain, though Utah claimed fatal crashes dropped by 20 percent the year it reduced its BAC limit.

When could the bill take effect?

Amendments added to SB 5002 would delay its implementation by six months, which would push its going into force by a year from the date it passes (if it does). Still, it might come as quite a surprise to many Kitsap County residents if a couple of beers or glasses of wine could land them in jail on a DUI charge someday.

Whether the law changes or not, if you have been charged with DUI, you could face losing your driver’s license, fines and even jail time. A discussion with a criminal defense attorney can help you decide your next move.