DUI bill on hold, will return next year

Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-18 23:46:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would change the standard for DUI law in Utah was yanked on Tuesday, just before it was scheduled to be heard.

Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, said he wanted more time over the next year to have discussion on House Bill 303 and its impact. But he told FOX 13 he would bring it back to the Utah State Legislature next year.

"I do believe in the cause," he said Tuesday. "I do believe this is an important bill we push forward."

HB 303 would change the standard for driving under the influence in Utah from "being under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the degree it renders a person incapable of safely operating a vehicle" to "being impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol, any drug, any substance, or any combination thereof."

Perry insisted his bill was not making Utah's already strict DUI laws even stricter.

"People are thinking it's 'not a drop.' It's not that at all," he said. "We want officers to clearly articulate that the person operating that car was impaired and, because they were impaired, they shouldn't have been driving a car."

Perry said the bill was addressing issues officers face on the streets with chemicals, people "huffing while driving" and new drugs.

HB 303 has been met with opposition from criminal defense attorneys, who said it may be unconstitutional.

"I think the main concern is that almost any substance could be considered to be a drug and considered to be impairment," said Richard Mauro, a criminal defense attorney who showed up to testify against HB 303.

"If we found that red dye No. 5 in Kool-Aid was a substance that could be impairing, someone could be arrested and prosecuted under the way it's currently written."

Perry said he hoped to meet with all sides over the interim to discuss the bill.