DC’s new driving while intoxicated law comes down hard on anyone under 21 years of age. But is the new zero tolerance fair?
The Comprehensive Impaired Driving and Alcohol Testing Program Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 applies to anyone arrested on suspicion of DWI on or after August 1, 2012.
For those over 21 years of age the law is clear. If you score less than .05 on a blood test, or .06 on a urine test, the new law creates a “rebuttable presumption that the person was not under the influence of alcohol.”
But for those under 21, the law shows zero tolerance. It states that by law a person under 21 is “intoxicated” if there is “any measurable amount of alcohol in the person’s blood, urine or breath.”
That’s right, if your over 21, up to .05 and you’re in the clear. Under 21, any amount of alcohol constitutes intoxication as a matter of law.
Sure it’s tough, but is it fair? The law sets a .05 limit because science tells us that an alcohol level above .05 could cause impairment. But there is no scientific evidence to suggest that an alcohol level below .05 – mere trace amounts – affects someone’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
While it might be fair to award a harsher sanction to someone under 21 for drinking and driving (after all drinking alcohol is prohibited) it doesn’t make any sense to claim someone under 21 is intoxicated, when their blood alcohol states clearly that they are not.
We will have to see of the under 21 provisions of DC’s new DWI law withstands a constitutional challenge.