Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board voted to recommend that states lower their “legal limits” from 0.08 to 0.05.  This change would effectively put any person who drinks even one beer at risk of DUI or DUAC conviction if that person subsequently drives a motor vehicle.

Currently, the “legal limit” of a driver’s blood alcohol content in South Carolina is 0.08%. What this limit means is that if a person charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) submits a breath or blood sample that is greater than or equal to 0.08, the judge or jury may infer that the person was under the influence of alcohol. If the police officer charges the person with Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) instead of DUI, then the person could be convicted based almost solely upon the breath or blood sample. While every person and every metabolism is different, it is possible that a 160-pound male who consumes two beers in one hour will register a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater. The reading can also be affected by other factors such as what and how much the person ate that day.

In most cases, after a person is arrested for DUI or DUAC, that person is offered a breath test. If the person refuses to submit a breath sample, that person is subject to a 6-month suspension of driving privileges (although he or she may be eligible for a route-restricted driver’s license) and may have to complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). ADSAP generally takes eight or more 2-hour sessions to complete and costs around $500. So, a person arrested for DUI or DUAC will often have to make the seemingly impossible decision: (1) blow into foreign-looking machine and possibly give law enforcement great evidence for conviction or (2) refuse to blow and possibly have deal with the consequences against the person’s driving privileges.

Due to a number of factors including the possible inaccuracies of the breathalyzer, under the current legal limit, a person who has consumed two alcoholic beverages in the past hour is rolling the dice on whether he or she will be above or below the “legal limit.” It is speculation at this point as to whether South Carolina or any other state will adopt this recommendation, but if so, it will surely be of great interest to many residents, including restaurant owners and social drinkers. If the “legal limit” is reduced to 0.05, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where a person who has had even one recent drink would be wise to submit a breath sample.

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