Breathalyzer bill would lower threshold for DUIs in Washington from .08 to .05

A new bill in the Washington State Senate could lower the Blood Alcohol Content threshold for DUIs from 0.08 to 0.05 statewide.

The bill, SB 5002, was put forward by state Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek.

Lovick, former Snohomish County Sheriff and Sergeant in the Washington State Patrol, is no stranger to drunk driving.

“Our roads are not as safe as they should be, and they are definitely not as safe as they could be,” said Sen Lovick in a public hearing on the bill Friday. “I see driving behavior that is beyond anything I could have imagined when I started as a state trooper over 40 years ago.”

“It is very clear to me that drunk driving is impacting the safety of our communities, and it is time that we do something,” Lovick continued.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Law & Justice, where Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, put forward an amended version.

“This amendment simply harmonizes other laws that relate to DUI with the 0.05 standard. It provides a delayed implementation date of Dec. 31 of this year,” said Kuderer. “And the reasoning behind that, is that my understanding is there will be a public outreach occurring to educate the public about the reduction in BAC.”

“We’re hoping it will end up saving lives by having this delayed implementation and give us an opportunity to educate the public on the new standard,” Kuderer concluded.

This led one of the bill’s supporters from across the aisle, Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, to raise an objection to the 7-month delay.

“I don't really understand how delaying implementation of good policy saves lives,” he said.

The fiscal note for the bill stated that the cost associated with the bill for local government is a one time expense and is “approximately $288,630 to provide training to local law enforcement officers on modified criminal offenses.”

This training is calculated at 30 minutes per officer statewide using rates of $66 and $60 an hour for City and County officers respectively.

This excludes an additional $119,000 for the Washington State Patrol, and $5,000 for the Washington State Department of Licensing, also one time expenses, bringing the total cost to implement the BAC change from 0.08 to 0.05 to just under $413,000.

The bill still has a ways to go in the legislative process. The Senate Committee on Law & Justice sent the amended version to the Transportation Committee for consideration.

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