Utah’s .05 DUI law is likely here to stay, but groups hope to tweak it

Posted at 4:33 PM, Jun 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-19 20:06:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's controversial .05 DUI law is likely here to stay.

In the face of opposition and ad campaigns targeting the state for the toughest anti-drunk driving law in the nation, the law's sponsor expressed confidence the Utah State Legislature would not repeal what it passed earlier this year.

"There are people that want to revisit the issue that has already passed. Well, the legislature’s already spoken. The governor has already signed it," Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, told FOX 13 on Monday. "It’s time to focus on other issues that we haven’t talked about."

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper makes a DUI arrest in a 2015 bust. (FOX 13 file image)

That doesn't mean there won't be tweaks to the law, which takes effect at the end of 2018. On Wednesday, the Utah State Legislature's interim committee will hear from representatives of the liquor, hospitality and tourism industry who have concerns about the law.

One of those critical of the new law is Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and now president of We Save Lives. In a weekend newspaper op-ed and in a subsequent interview with FOX 13, she called the law "unenforceable." She urged lawmakers to focus on bigger issues like distracted and drugged driving.

"We have so many other issues, especially drugged driving, that is becoming more of a threat in some cases than drunk driving, that we should be focusing on," she said.

Another group, the American Beverage Institute, has run ads in newspapers urging people to cancel vacation plans in Utah. The ads have antagonized lawmakers over their decision to pass the law. Rep. Thurston said he didn't believe it was having an effect.

An ad running in the Idaho Statesman newspaper protesting Utah's new DUI law.

"The quote unquote bad press has all been generated by the industry that’s been complaining about the bad press," he said.

Michele Corigliano of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association said she did not believe lawmakers would repeal the .05 DUI law, but hoped they would make changes to ensure local businesses did not feel a negative impact.

"What we have heard is conventions at the ski resorts have canceled for the main reason of this new law," she told FOX 13.

Rep. Thurston said he was willing to discuss changes including dram shop liability, insurance, driver license issues and even a tiered system for people convicted of a .05 DUI.

"People talk about that and that’s a serious discussion of study. We want to try to figure that out," he said.