Herbert: DUI limit stays put, abortion bill needs changes

In this February 2015 file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 5, 2015 | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert said that while there may be some tweaks to Utah’s strict new DUI threshold, the law set to take effect Dec. 30 is here to stay.

Herbert told reporters that the 0.05 percent blood alcohol limit taking effect Dec. 30 won’t be repealed or delayed, and there’s evidence showing people can become impaired at that blood alcohol level.

Some highlights from Herbert’s press conference Thursday:


Herbert signed off on the law last year but said he intended to call legislators into a special session to create a tiered penalty system so that those with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 to 0.08 percent would face a lighter punishment. That never happened because legislators and state officials couldn’t agree on changes.

Read more: Utah Legislature passes bill lowering DUI threshold to 0.05

The governor, like other supporters of the law, says there’s evidence that people become impaired at 0.05 percent and police won’t pull drivers over unless they’re showing signs of impairment.

Herbert also seemed open to supporting a bill this year that would allow someone whose blood alcohol level is above 0.05 percent to carry a weapon but not use it unless it’s in self-defense. The governor said people should be punished for behavior, not what they’re carrying in their pocket.

Medical marijuana

The governor, who once said he worried about a medical pot law turning into “Dr. Feelgood” handing out “doobies,” said that most people agree that if marijuana seems to helping those in pain, there should be a way to let people use it like a medicine.

Herbert said he doesn’t like the idea of anyone being able to self-medicate or grow their own marijuana, and if a medical marijuana ballot initiative in the works is passed by voters this year, lawmakers may need to make some changes to the law. Utah is in the alcohol business, Herbert said, adding that it should probably be in the marijuana business too so there’s control over where people get the drug and how much they’re given.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who proposed legislation in September that would help ease federal restrictions on medical marijuana research, also spoke up in January following U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions’ issuance of a memo to federal prosecutors they were at liberty to go after cases where state law was in defiance of federal drug policy.

Read more: Sessions ends policy that let legal marijuana trade grow; Hatch’s office calls action a ‘roadblock’

Herbert said he’s concerned about a bill barring abortions sought because a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome because the Legislature’s lawyers have warned it’s likely unconstitutional. Bill sponsor Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, a Republican, contends abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome are “a eugenic-like eradication” and discrimination against a group of people.

Read more: Southern Utah legislator still has concerns about bill that would stop abortions based on Down syndrome

Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2018 issues

Written by MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • bikeandfish February 16, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Good on Herbert for challenging bills that are legally reviewed to be likely unconstitutional.

    Well adapt to the DUI law. The fact is we should be encouraging people use more 100% sober designated drivers or using transportation services anyways.

    Herbert is smart to recognize marijuana decriminalization is eventually going to happen. Comparing it to alcohol is apropos given we are also eventually going to wrest alcohol control out of the states hands within 15 years as well. A politically conservative state, ie not socially, would already be working on ways to reduce state oversight.

    • jh9000 February 16, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      Agreed. I bought a breathalyzer just for fun a few years ago and I couldn’t believe how I felt at .05, let alone .08. For me .05 was the point where I wouldn’t feel ok about driving.

    • Striker4 February 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      I agree with you as well. absolutely good call by the Governor

  • McMurphy February 17, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Herberts worried about passing an unconstitutional law?
    He took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
    So did members of the Utah legislature but I guess it doesn’t matter much to them either.

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