Author: Shernide Delva
The state of Utah plans to set the bar by being the state with the lowest DUI limit. Will other states follow?
This week, Utah lawmakers voted to lower the blood alcohol content limit for drunken driving offenses from 0.08 to 0.05. The proposal passed the Utah State Legislature and now will make its way to Governor Gary Herbert, who has indicated he supports the bill.
According to the Chicago Tribune, if Governor Herbert signs the bill, the law will go into effect on December 30, 2018, the day before New Year’s Eve. It would mark the lowest blood alcohol level in the country.
The bill was originally proposed by Rep. Normal Thurston. The measure passed the Utah Senate with a 19-11 vote. Lawmakers are split on the decision along with those in the adult beverage industry.
On one hand, some command Utah for taking steps to improve safety when it comes to driving under the influence. However, others find the bill unnecessary. Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute pointed to drunk driving fatality statistics, stating:
“Over 77% of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Utah are caused by people with [blood alcohol levels] of .15 and above.”
Furthermore, Longwell added that the average blood alcohol level in a fatal car accident tends to be 0.20—more than twice the current legal limit of 0.08. Looking at the stats, one could ponder if a law like this is even necessary. However, lawmakers praise the bill saying it corresponds to laws around the world in Southeast Asia to Europe.
While it might be the first in the United States, it is far from uncommon in other areas. Utah plans to lead the country in lowering the legal limit. A similar proposal failed in Hawaii, while another bill is currently receiving consideration in Washington.
Still, the other argument states that Utah has no need for a bill like this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah already has lower drunk-driving statistics than most U.S. states. Between 2003 and 2012, 469 people have been killed in drunk driving accidents, and 0.7 percent of Utah residents complained of drinking too much compared to a national average of 1.9% of people.
The National Transportation Board (NTB) and other public health experts have agreed that all states should adopt 0.05% as the standard alcohol level. Deborah Hersman, Chairwoman of the NTB, said to the New York Times in 2013, that “there are at least 10,000 reasons to tackle the issue,” such as “the annual average of 10,000 drunk driving fatalities nationally.”
What are your thoughts on the decrease?
Driving under the influence is never a good idea; however, this clearly is a controversial and complex problem. Surprisingly, Mothers Against Drunk Driving founder Candace Lightner does not believe the drinking limit should lower. Lightner led the successful national campaign in the 80s to crack down on drunk driving. Yet, she does not support the proposal.
“I don’t believe it is a practical long-term solution,” Lightner told U.S. News. “You could go to 0.0 and that would save lives. You could go to a 40 mph speed limit and that would save lives, but you have to look at what’s realistic.”
“Running around trying to arrest everyone at .05 is impractical,” Lightner says.
She believes it is already difficult for police and prosecutors to take action at 0.08, better yet 0.05 percent. Many drivers at those limits are easily able to pass a field sobriety test.
Now, that you have heard all the sides to this issue, what are your thoughts? Should the legal drinking limit change? If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.
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Author: Shernide Delva
Back in February, we published an article on how Utah Republican State Senator Todd Weiler declared porn a public health crisis. Weiler came out in protest of pornography citing the destructive, addictive nature of porn. He introduced a legislature to Utah that would allow the state to closely monitor ]pornography usage and reduce child pornography.
Now, the state’s governor is coming out with support for those beliefs. Utah Gov. Gary R. Hubert recently said that porn is a “health hazard” and produces a “sexually toxic environment” for those who view it. He signed two bills to raise awareness of the issue he feels strongly about:
“Pornography is a public health crisis. Today I signed two bills that will bring its dangers to light. S.C.R. 9 calls for additional research and education so that more individuals and families are aware of the harmful effects of pornography,” said Herbert on the governor’s Facebook page.
Of the two bills, one is technically a resolution that declares porn as an official health hazard to the state of Utah while the other bill proposes a solution. The first bill explains the reason why porn is such a huge problem. It lists the numerous detrimental effects of porn such as causing the treatment of women as “objects and commodities for the viewer’s use.” The bill continues to state that pornography “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”
Still, the bill does not list any punishing powers. It does not explicitly ban pornography in the state, nor does it contain any consequences for those caught viewing pornography.
Jon Cox, the spokesperson for the Republican governor, explained the bill Monday stating the point of the bill is to declare a resolution to raise awareness and education of the dangers of porn:
“We want Utah youths to understand the addictive habits” of porn that are “harmful to our society,” he said.
The second bill introduced does list some consequences for more specific porn usage, such as viewing child pornography. The second bill requires technicians who find child pornography during their work to report it to law enforcement. Any technician who fails to report findings of child pornography would face a class B misdemeanor.
Claims of Addiction
Porn addiction has been, and continues to be, a controversial manner. Some believe pornography has a place in society while others believe it is harmful. Some also believe pornography can be addictive while others find there is nothing addictive about it. Just like any addiction, some people are affected more by an action or behavior than others are.
Dawn Hawkins is the executive director of National Center on Sexual Exploitation in Washington, had spoken in the past how detrimental she feels porn can be.
“Pornography encourages viewers to view their sexual partners in a dehumanized way, and it increases the acceptance and enjoyment of sexual violence and harmful beliefs about women, sex, and rape.”
Pornography continues to be an interesting conversation had throughout the entire country. An interesting twist to the legislation is that in 2009, Utah was determined by Harvard Business School to have the highest pornography sales per capita than any other state in the United States.
Pornography exists, and people are watching it. That is a fact. Whether or not pornography should be banned or how addictive it can be remains a conversation to be had repetitively. However, as with any addiction, people respond differently. If you feel you have a problem, get help. Do not feel ashamed. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Another new law marks the death knell of the war on drugs. In a packed hearing room in Utah, applause erupted when the House Law Enforcement Committee unanimously endorsed a bill that will drastically change the state’s criminal justice laws. House Bill HB348 seeks to greatly enhance drug and mental-health treatment and reduce the time addicts stay in prison by dropping some crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.
War on Drugs Continues to Lose its Footing
The bill was created as a way to allow for early assessment and intervention for people convicted of a crime. If the person committing the crime or crimes was motivated by drug addiction or mental illness, they would be ushered into a treatment-heavy program with a lighter prison sentence; the treatment they receive in prison would continue when the offender is released.
This massive change requires a major increase in funding for treatment providers. It’s estimated that it would take $21 million to provide enough treatment slots.
County prosecutors have their own worries. They fear reducing drug possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor would shift many offenders from the state system to the county jails, which could become a financial burden.
But the plan would move people with addiction problems out of the jail faster since they would have shorter sentences. And enhanced treatment should reduce the number of people who return to jail or prison for violating probation or parole.
Two-thirds of the people admitted to the state prison in 2013 had violated their probation and parole and that over the last 10 years, drug sentences have grown longer by from two to four months.
“We have more people going to prison, and more people spending more time in prison, even though we have fewer crimes being committed,” Hutchings said. “It is not logical. It doesn’t make sense.”
Committee members said they were worried about properly funding the bill but were supportive of the plan, which is an extension of a nationwide “justice-reinvestment” effort. More than two dozen states have passed similar reforms meant to slow the growth in the prison population.
Utah currently has about 7,000 incarcerated people.
Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, who is a former district court judge in Utah, argued that HB348 is an appropriate step away from tough-on-crime policies of the past.
“I think we have been on a 30-year binge of the felonization of America,” he said.
Drug dealing will still be a second-degree felony and prosecutors can charge an offender with a felony on their third drug possession case.
HB348 will now go to the full House.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction or is facing legal issues because of their drug addiction and/or mental illness, Palm Partners can help. We offer dual diagnosis treatment for people who suffer with both a substance abuse disorder and a psychological disorder as well as offer services such as case management in order to address the obstacles that our clients may be facing. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.