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Lowering The Legal Limit For Blood Alcohol Level In A DWI Case: A View From A Queens Ny DWI Lawyer

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, (“NTSB”), one person dies in a car accident each hour that involves a person driving while intoxicated, and twenty more people are injured, including three who develop debilitating injuries out of those twenty. on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, the NTSB called on all fifty states to lower the blood alcohol level that defines when a person is driving while intoxicated. The NTSB is recommending that all US states reduce the blood alcohol threshold for legal intoxication down to .05%.

Currently, in New York State, a person is considered Driving While Intoxicated under Vehicle and Traffic Law (“VTL”) Section 1192.2 when a person’s blood alcohol level registers a .08% or higher on the breathalyzer instrument. However, many people do not realize that you will be arrested for Driving While Impaired under VTL Section 1192.1 if the breathalyzer instrument registers a .05% up to .08%. What is the difference you may ask? There are big differences. First and most important of the differences is that a VTL Section 1192.2 conviction will leave you with an unclassified misdemeanor on your record, while a VTL Section 1192.1 conviction is not a crime, and only considered a traffic infraction. Also, a VTL Section 1192.2 conviction results in a six month revocation of your license for a first offender, whereas a VTL Section 1192.1 conviction results in a three month suspension of your license. Another major difference is that a VTL Section 1192.2 conviction requires a mandatory ignition interlock device (“IID”) for a minimum of six months on any vehicle the convicted person owns, operates or is registered to that person. The VTL Section 1192.1 conviction has no such requirement.

Obviously, the American Beverage Institute, specifically Sarah Longwell, who is the Managing Director, calls the recommendation ludicrous. She states that this would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior. I suspect that there are many different views regarding such a statement. Bruce Goldman, the Director of Substance Abuse Services at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, Queens, New York, states that there is a major difference in the levels, and that people with a level of .05% are quite impaired. As a general guideline, we calculate about .02% to .03% blood alcohol level per drink per hour. To get to a .08%, that is approximately four drinks in one hour. Goldman further goes on to state that drinkers may not appear to be impaired but it does not mean that their ability to drive is unaltered. He states that their judgment is not as good as it would be normally. NBC reported that after Australia implemented a similar drop in blood alcohol level, deaths from drunk driving declined by 5% to 18%.

The NTSB has no authority to enforce their recommendation, but provide a significant Federal voice for those seeking change on a State level. It remains up to the individual States and the Department of Transportation to enforce this recommendation. It is very likely that there will be a great amount of resistance to such a change in the blood alcohol level as it presently exists.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said that “We know that our fatality numbers will come down if we take aggressive measures.” The NTSB was also responsible for recommending the mandatory ignition interlock devices that are now required for first time convicted offenders of Driving While Intoxicated, VTL Section 1192.2.

I, as a QUEENS DWI ATTORNEY, can state with certainty, that such a recommendation, if followed, will result in more DWI arrests than are presently being processed by the New York City Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies in New York State. One will think twice before ordering a bottle wine at dinner for two people. The motto of “Drink Responsibly if you are Driving” will most likely become “Don’t Drink at all While you are Driving”.