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Wisconsin sheriff opposes lowering BAC limit

For anyone who has engaged in drunken driving, encountering a Wisconsin police officer on the roads can lead to a traffic stop, sobriety test and possible arrest. Police officers are trained to identify and pull over individuals that they suspect of being intoxicated and have the authority to make arrests for DUI. The state has set a minimum blood alcohol count of .08 as the threshold for determining if a driver is intoxicated, and police officers test for that minimum when they make traffic stops.

A new proposal from the National Transportation Safety Board recommends that states across the nation lower the blood alcohol threshold from .08 to .05. Noting that other countries have the .05 standard and have reduced their drunk driving deaths considerably, the NTSB also recommends increasing the use of ignition interlock devices.

One of Wisconsin's top cops has spoken out against the NTSB's proposal. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke opposed the proposal, claiming that it is generally drivers with high blood alcohol counts that create dangerous situations on the road and not people who have a drink with friends in social settings. He stated that in Milwaukee County, the average blood alcohol count of a person arrested for drunk driving is .15, or nearly twice the current threshold limit.

While Clarke opposes the proposal, he does support making a first-time drunk driving arrest a criminal event. Criminalizing first-time drunk driving arrests is not currently a Wisconsin law and Clarke notes that Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that does not criminalize such events.

Both the criminalization of a first-time DUI arrest and the proposed NTSB blood alcohol content reductions are potential legal changes that could impact the rights of Wisconsin drivers. If they are passed, more people may find themselves subject to DUI hearings with more people gaining criminal records for being arrested for drunk driving.

Source: Today's TMJ4, "Sheriff says lower drunk driving BAC standard misses the mark," John Byman, May 15, 2013

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