After compiling data on traffic accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that states reduce the current blood-alcohol limit of .08 to .05.
About 100 countries worldwide have DUI laws that set the blood-alcohol limit at .05. In Florida, as it is around the U.S., the legal limit is .08.
Florida law permits prosecutors to pursue DUI cases one of two ways. For a case in which there is a breath reading, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher. For refusal cases, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating a motor vehicle to the point that their normal faculties were impaired.
The law permits states to charge both in a charging document - driving with an unlawful blood-alcohol level and driving while normal faculties impaired. This way, prosecutors can use other evidence - such as performance on the field sobriety tests (roadsides), statements made to police, and the observations of police officers (flushed face, watery eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcoholic beverage) to convict you, even in the absence of a breath reading or a breath reading that falls below a .08.
Remember - you can still get a DUI with a breath reading less than .08. A .08 or higher just permits the jury to presume that you were impaired. With enough other evidence - roadside performance, statements, and observations of cops, you can be convicted with a BAL of less than .08. It's called a "low blow" DUI.
No word yet on how seriously the recommendation of the NTSB is being taken by states. DUI laws are a state function.
Eric Matheny is a Miami DUI attorney and Broward DUI attorney.