Ever Wonder What Would Happen If DUI .08 Was Lowered?

There is no need to wonder, as this exact scenario is taking place just a little north of the city of  Bellingham, Whatcom County in the Canadian Province of British Columbia (BC).  From all accounts, the lowering of the limit is a complete and total disaster.  This sentiment is not from the expected opponents of the law, but rather those charged with enforcing the new law — the police.


08 LimitThere is no need to wonder, as this exact scenario is taking place just a little north of the city of  Bellingham, Whatcom County in the Canadian Province of British Columbia (BC).  From all accounts, the lowering of the limit is a complete and total disaster.  This sentiment is not from the expected opponents of the law, but rather those charged with enforcing the new law- the police.

The story (below and bold) of the new lower DUI law appeared in Oct 21, 2010:

B.C.’s harsh new drunk-driving laws are stretching police resources, says Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis.

Officers now face the potential for more pursuits and are wasting time waiting for tow trucks and taxis after vehicles are impounded, he says.

“Ultimately, from a front-line police officer’s perspective, we’re ending up not targeting the person that’s responsible for the very serious tragedies that we deal with on an ongoing basis,” said Stamatakis.

“Even if you support the change of regulations, I don’t think any of us support the fact that we’ve now become the judge and the jury. Our job is to enforce the law and another part of our criminal justice system should be dealing with the guilt or innocence thing and imposing what the penalties should be.”

Stamatakis said the heavier penalties on drivers with a breathalyzer reading of between .05 and .08 means that police are targeting people who have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner — rather than problem drinking drivers.

The higher penalties are leading to increased tension between police and drivers, and extra officers may be needed for backup at a time when police are already short-staffed, he said.

“There’s no question that speeding and drunk driving cause a lot of carnage on our roads,” said Stamatakis, who’s also president of the B.C. Police Association. “In this country, at least, it’s not illegal to consume a glass of wine with dinner and it seems we’re creating a situation where we are put in the unenviable position of having to enforce these regulations.”

Stamatakis said his members weren’t consulted before the government brought in the new laws, and that he plans to talk to Solicitor General Mike de Jong about them.

“There’s a significant fine attached for both speeding and lower blood-alcohol limits,” Stamatakis said. “Is that revenue going to be poured back into public safety, or going to end up in general revenue?

“My view would be if we’re going to create these regulations that have a considerable impact on police capacity, then the revenues should come back to policing.”

Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd said Wednesday he agrees with Stamatakis.

“When you institute these kind of changes, there may well be consequences that were not what was intended, in terms of the use of scarce police resources,” he said.

“This is new territory. Do we have a lot of evidence that people at .05 are the people that are creating more than 1,000 impaired-driving deaths that we get in Canada every year?”

Cpl. Jamie Chung, spokesman for RCMP traffic services, said the Mounties haven’t experienced any extra problems since the law came in Sept. 20.

“Police work comes with risk,” he said. “If we have to impound people’s vehicles, there’s always a potential for them to get irate.” And police have always had to wait for tow trucks when impounding vehicles during roadside suspensions, he added.

Manon Groulx, Vancouver vice-president for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, was reluctant to comment on Stamatakis’s views.

“If the new laws stop impaired drivers and reduce the amount of victims, we’re happy,” she said. Read more.

In Washington the legal limit continues to be .08, and the consumption of alcohol and driving remains legal as long as the driver remains under .08 and/or remains unaffected by their consumption.  That being said, however, does not change the fact that law enforcement, locally and state-wide, still arrest and causes criminal DUI charges to be filed against those under the limit and well within the law.  Practically speaking therefore, the legal limit appears to be “zero tolerance.”  While this is not a bad thing, the problems is the disconnect between what is legal and what “not guilty citizens” are being arrested and prosecuted for.  Many citizens agree with a “zero tolerance” and that is their right, but a person should not be arrested, prosecuted, and punished for living their life well within the law.

Despite a person’s personal opinion, the law is set and it has been continually reduced over time, and may one day be even lower, but until that time, .08 remains the standard and “zero tolerance” should not prevail.  As an analogy, consider the case where you are stopped and cited for speeding.  You were doing 59 in a 60 zone on the interstate.   Yet, you were stopped and given a speeding ticket despite you being close, but not at, or even over the legal speed limit.  Think about how this would feel.  As a person who defends citizens rights I see this injustice weekly.  This exact situation is happening only on a more serious level (criminal vs. traffic infraction).

If the law changes then so be it, we are a land ruled by law and the democratic process can change that law.  But if that happens, why not take a look at the problems and pitfalls of such a change?  Why not learn from our Canadian neighbors and avoid the problems they have encountered?  Better yet, why not actually enforce the law here at it stands, rather than impose “zero tolerance” in a non-democratic manner?

DUI does not necessarily mean a driver is .08, and as a result DUI is not a simple charge. Defense of a citizen charge with DUI is not to be taken lightly nor is it for the inexperienced, nor should a lawyer who has no DUI experience handle such a defense. Rather is requires a highly specialized level of understanding, skill, passion, and compassion. Jonathan Rands is an experienced, dedicated, and tenacious DUI lawyer with proven DUI defense success. The right to remain silent is an important right that effects each and every DUI case, and a right that exists from the moment a driver is stopped, or seized by law enforcement.