How drunk is drunk? Officers want state's legal limit lowered


by Nadia Ramdass / KENS 5

Posted on October 8, 2010 at 11:06 PM

Updated Saturday, Oct 9 at 11:00 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- How drunk is drunk?  Some police officers in Texas want a newly revised definition.

Currently, the blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is considered to be under the influence, but one police chief wants to lower that number and change the legal limit.

KENS 5 talked to drivers about the proposed new law and we observed a varied reaction.

The next time you are at the bar or perhaps at a sporting event enjoying a casual cocktail, you may want to think twice about drinking that alcoholic beverage before planning to drive.

"I guess if I got pulled over and had one drink, I would be pretty upset about it," said driver and moderate social drinker April Brown.

The national standard is 0.08, but Austin's Police Chief Art Acevedo is pushing state lawmakers to allow officers to arrest drivers with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.07.  The Chief said too many people are being arrested for DWIs and then plea bargaining for a lesser charge.

"One glass or maybe even one beer shouldn't be where you get in trouble for that," said driver Melody Segura.

The American Beverage Institute is urging Texas lawmakers to reject the proposed new law, saying it's attacking moderate social drinkers. The trade group responded with the following remark:

"By further lowering the legal BAC level, this proposal ignores the root cause of today's drunk driving problem, hard core alcohol abusers" (Sarah Longwell / Spokeswoman, American Beverage Institute)

"I think it's great" to lower the limit, said driver Max Sanchez.

Sanchez is for the proposed new law after years of watching his father battle with alcohol abuse and racking up many DWIs over the years.

"I really feel from the moment you take that first drink you know what you’re doing. So I think it's a good thing," said Sanchez.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) of South Texas released this statement in response to the proposed law change:

"In 2009, 1,235 people died and 17,833 were injured in drunk driving crashes on Texas roadways. MADD is committed to supporting our partners and heroes in law enforcement in their dedicated efforts to keep our roadways safe. MADD remains focused on legislation proven to save lives, such as requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers with an illegal BAC of .08 or greater and allowing law enforcement officers to conduct sobriety checkpoints."   (Jennifer Northway / Executive Director, MADD South Texas).