Will Michigan Adopt the .05 Drunk Driving Legal Limit for Intoxication?

Under current law, a Michigan driver is presumed to be intoxicated if a breath or blood test shows an alcohol level of at least .08.  This is the so-called legal limit in Michigan.  This means that if a jury finds that the prosecutor has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver had at least a .08, the jury may, but is not required to; return a verdict of guilty to OWI or drunk driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recommended that the national legal limit be reduced to .05.  According to CNN:

In the early 1980s, when grass-roots safety groups brought attention to drunk driving, many states required a 0.15 BAC rate to demonstrated intoxication.

But over the next 24 years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups pushed states to adopt the 0.08 BAC standard, the last state falling in line in 2004.

We as a nation are currently in a race toward zero.  Again, according to CNN:

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states adopt a blood-alcohol content (BAC) cutoff of 0.05 compared to the 0.08 standard on the books today and used by law enforcement and the courts to prosecute drunk driving.

Dr. Wayne Jones is one of the world’s most renowned toxicologists, particularly as it relates to alcohol metabolism.  He has indicated that 0.05 is about 2 “standard” drinks.  According to Jones:

A standard drink is about 0.025 g%.  Here’s how it works out: call it the BAC after one “standard drink” which is 12 grams ethanol in USA. This comes from the Widmark equation as follows:

Grams ethanol = BAC (g/L) x body weight (kg) x rho factor.  Assuming a man of 160 pounds or 160/2.2 = 73 kg and rho factor for a male is 0.68 By rearranging you get BAC (g/L) = 12 divided by (73 x 0.68) = 0.24 g/L But a BAC of 0.24 g/L = 0.024 g% which is very close to 0.025 g%

But remember this is a theoretical calculation and only applies if 100% of the dose of ethanol is absorbed instantaneously into all the body water and the blood. In practice this never happens unless you give the alcohol intravenously and then it is not a drink.

In his experience the BAC you would get after “one standard drink” would be a lot less than 0.025 g% owing to first-pass metabolism effects of food etc. Making forward predictions of BAC is not recommended.

Remember, it is not safe to assume that you will always be driving lawfully if you’ve had just two drinks.  There are simply too many variables, such as gender, weight, food, experience with alcohol, sleep patterns, and so forth.  Nevertheless, if you are out enjoying Red Wings playoffs, a meal with friends, or leave home after drinking, if .05 passes, and it’s just a matter of time before it does, you may well find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Since MADD become involved in this sort of legislation, the race toward zero has accelerated.  They won’t stop until we have zero tolerance.  The tactics used by MADD are similar to those used by the Temperance Movement, also composed primarily of women, before the 18th Amendment was passed thereby paving the way for Prohibition and one of the most violent chapters in US History.


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Patrick T. Barone

Founding Partner and CEO at Barone Defense Firm
The Founding Partner and CEO of the Barone Defense Firm, Mr. Barone has written two books and 100s of articles on the subject of DUI defense and trial practice. He is an adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he teaches a cutting-edge class on the practice of DUI defense. He is a highly sought after speaker for bar association meetings and legal education seminars throughout the country. He is also on the Faculty of the National College for DUI Defense. And, because his colleagues consistently give him top reviews, Mr. Barone has an “AV” (highest) rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and since 2009 has been included in the highly selective US News & World Report’s America’s Best Lawyers while The Barone Defense Firm appears in their companion America’s Best Law Firms. He has been rated “Seriously Outstanding” by SuperLawyers, rated “Outstanding/10.0” by AVVO and has recently been appointed to the advisory board for the Michigan edition of Leading Lawyers Magazine.
2 comments… add one
  • Roger May 23, 2013, 11:09 pm

    No one has to submit to a field sobriety test or a (BAC) blood test per the 4th and 5th amendments!
    Drunk driving is an unprovable offense. If a person has not harmed any other person or damaged any other person’s property or violated another person’s rights, then that person is not guilty of any crime.

    Read, learn and understand the constitution. If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any!

  • Roger May 24, 2013, 9:39 am

    In criminal cases, the jury has the right to determine the law and the facts.
    The only purpose for lowering the BAC, is to increase revenues for the government.


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