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UHP makes first .05 DUI arrest since new Utah law began

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COALVILLE — A Wyoming man has become the first person to be arrested by the Utah Highway Patrol and charged under the state's new .05 DUI law.

The 21-year-old was driving with his girlfriend on I-80 in Summit County Tuesday when the two got into an argument. During the fight, the woman was hit in the face, according to a Summit County Jail report. The man then dropped off the girlfriend at a gas station and she called police.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled the man over late Tuesday morning on I-80 near Coalville. While talking to the man, the trooper reported detecting alcohol on his breath and asked if he had been drinking.

"He said he had five shots of vodka, few beers, and other drinks last night/early morning," the report states.

The man was given a portable breath test that registered a blood alcohol content of .089 percent, the report states. The trooper then placed the man under arrest and waited for a tow truck to arrive before taking him to jail.

Because of the remote area where the traffic stop was made, the trooper wasn't able to get back to the police station to administer a test on a machine that measures a person's blood alcohol content until 90 minutes later. At that time, the man had a .059 blood alcohol content, according to the report.

UHP Sgt. Nick Street said the machine at the police station is the one that gives readings that are admissible in court. Because of that, the man was arrested for investigation of DUI with a .059 percent blood alcohol level and was charged with misdemeanor DUI in Summit County Justice Court on Wednesday.

The man was also convicted of being a juvenile in possession of alcohol in 2016 and had an active warrant out for his arrest for missing a court hearing in that case two years ago.

Utah now has the toughest DUI law in the nation. A new law went into effect Dec. 30 that lowers the legal blood alcohol concentration for driving in the state from .08 percent to .05 percent. The Utah Legislature passed the law in 2017 but delayed its implementation until the end of 2018.

From Sunday through Tuesday, UHP troopers made 29 DUI arrests. With the exception of the Summit County arrest, all the drivers arrested were above the old .08 blood-alcohol threshold, Street said. During the same time period last year, the UHP made 46 DUI arrests with fewer troopers patrolling the freeways, he said.

Street said it's hard to definitively say whether the new .05 law is deterring people from drinking and driving. But he believes the media attention surrounding the new law, the increased use of ride-sharing, and a greater stigma in today's society about drinking and driving has had an impact.

Street said there's a "healthy fear" among people today of driving after drinking.

Since 2010, there has been a 50 percent decline in the number of DUI arrests, according to Street. In 2010, more than 12,000 DUI arrests were made in Utah, he said. in 2017, just under 6,000 DUI arrests were made.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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