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Breathalyzers-in-Utah-bars bill advances

Published March 10, 2014 7:19 pm

No mandate • But offers legal protections and standards for use.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The House endorsed Monday a bill to make it legally easier for bars to offer Breathalyzers — after an earlier proposal instead to mandate them became the butt of national jokes.

The House voted 72-1 to pass HB190, and sent it to the Senate.

"This bill doesn't mandate anyone to use these," said House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper. He once told the press he was considering mandates, but abandoned that after some national media described that as a draconian measure that would make Utah's unique liquor laws stranger.

"This creates some standards and calibration and quality," he said. It also ensures privacy of people who use the machines, and avoids results from being used against them later by law officers.

Hughes said it also would protect bar owners from being sued if a patron was later arrested for DUI after "passing" a test in a bar.

The bill also sets quality standards requiring vending machines to be calibrated every 30 days or after 300 uses, and requires single-use tests to be rated at 99.8 percent accuracy.

Hughes likened having a Breathalyzer in a bar as akin to having a speedometer on a car, and said he hopes drinkers would use it to help them prevent drinking while impaired.

The lone member who voted against it, Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley, said she has heard from many people who worry it could lead to drinking games, where people compete to get higher scores on the machines. She said the bill could actually lead to more drunken driving and accidents.

Hughes noted the machines are already allowed, but his bill might help prevent such drinking games by including warnings about when people are likely too impaired to drive.