- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he will sign emergency legislation clarifying the city’s policy on drunken driving, despite his earlier criticism of the bill.

“I am not completely enthusiastic about it,” Mr. Williams, a Democrat, said during his weekly press briefing. “But I sign a lot of things that I am not completely enthusiastic about.”

The D.C. Council overwhelmingly passed the legislation Oct. 17.

The bill states that anyone with a blood alcohol level of less than .05 percent is not presumed to be under the influence and those with a blood alcohol level between .05 percent and .08 percent are presumed to be neither drunk nor sober.

The legislation was passed after a 45-year-old woman was arrested this spring for driving after drinking a single glass of wine with dinner. The woman had a blood alcohol level of .03 percent. A person with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher is considered legally drunk in every state in the nation.

Last month, the mayor said the legislation was written too hastily and could damage the District’s drunken-driving laws.

He also noted that during the past two years in the District, 10 persons died in alcohol-related crashes in which drivers’ blood alcohol levels were less than .08 percent.

Council members are working on more permanent legislation that will further define the laws.

“I think we are making progress in the permanent bill,” Mr. Williams said. “I think they made an effort to try to accommodate some of our issues on the emergency bill so we will sign it.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said his department “will publish any changes in the law so our members understand and begin enforcement accordingly.”

John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, the region’s largest motorists club, lauded the mayor’s announcement but said police and motorists need more clarity in the permanent legislation.

“It is an encouraging sign,” Mr. Townsend said. “There are many more miles we have to go before we have clarity on this issue.”

“This was a problem that demanded a prompt resolution,” said council member Carol Schwartz, the at-large Republican who introduced the bill. “By passing the legislation I co-introduced, we have helped to diminish the perception of the District of Columbia as an inhospitable place, because we are not.

“People needed a clear idea of how to plan ahead when enjoying a night out — whether to drive or whether to take a cab or Metro — and I think that they will have that now.”

The legislation would discourage officers from arresting those with blood alcohol levels of less than .05 percent.

Metropolitan Police still would have the discretion to arrest persons with blood alcohol levels of .05 percent to .08 percent, if an officer thinks they are impaired.

They could be considered intoxicated if other evidence, such as field sobriety test results, show impairment. Those with levels below .05 percent would not be charged for DUI alone.

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