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10/19/2005
DC Council Raises Legal Blood Alcohol Limit to .05
Washington, DC raises the drunk driving standard from 0.0 to 0.05.

DC City Council
The city council in the District of Columbia voted 9-3 Tuesday to increase the blood alcohol level at which an individual is presumed guilty of drunk driving. DC has had essentially no limit in the past, meaning arrests could -- and have -- taken place with blood alcohol readings of 0.00. The council's legislation raises that to 0.05, much lower than the 0.08 prevalent in the rest of the country. (View text of legislation, 41k PDF format).

The council acted after a series of embarrassing articles in The Washington Post documented cases where individuals were jailed for drunk driving despite blood alcohol readings of 0.00 or 0.03 in breath tests. Officers citing a "zero tolerance" policy would arrest anyone who admitted to having just one drink before driving. These motorists would then be offered a clean record if they paid a $400 "counseling fee." Failure to pay would result in the city Department of Motor Vehicles suspending their driver's license, despite the lack of any criminal conviction. The arrest alone has affected the jobs of many residents who need a clean record to maintain security clearances. It took five months and $2000 in legal fees before Debra Bolton, 45, cleared her name after she was arrested for drunk driving with a blood alcohol level of just 0.03.

Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) sponsored the measure. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) was absent but supported the provision. Barry was convicted of crack cocaine possession in 1990.

Mayor Anthony Williams (D) defended the city's practices and could veto the measure.

Article Excerpt:
Members said they are concerned that the story was making headlines across the country and portraying the District as the last refuge of Prohibition. Ambrose said she attended a wedding in Maine this weekend and was teased about it. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) said participants at a recent business meeting were jokingly warned not to have a glass of wine lest they be carted away. "The press is killing us," Orange said.
Source: D.C. Council Votes to Ease No-Tolerance DUI Law (Washington Post, 10/19/2005)

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