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MADD’s Historic Push For A .05% Alcohol Limit (by Dayton DUI)

Dayton DUI Attorney Charles Rowland > DUI Law  > DUI Process  > MADD’s Historic Push For A .05% Alcohol Limit (by Dayton DUI)

MADD’s Historic Push For A .05% Alcohol Limit (by Dayton DUI)

Carrie Nation in 1910

In 1938 the American Medical Association created a “Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents.”  Around that same time the National Safety Council began the “Committee on Tests for Intoxication.” Their original research found that a driver with a .15% Blood Alcohol Concentration (B.A.C.) could be presumed to be “under the influence.” Ohio law followed this paradigm making it illegal to drive with a B.A.C. over .15%.  This standard existed for over 20 years.

Law and politics changed forever with the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the late 1970’s.  MADD changed the world for the better.  No longer would drunk driving be tolerated.  Along with the seismic changes in our attitudes toward drunk driving came laws making the DUI laws more strict.  MADD’s first major victory was getting the permissible BAC  standard was lowered to .10%.  The lower standard was not tied to impairment or intoxication.  It simply created an arbitrary cut-off beyond which a person could be punished.  Drunk driving convictions soared and politicians took notice.  Ohio declared war on drunk drivers in 1982 and adopted S.B. 432 to set separate offenses for operating with prohibited levels of alcohol in the blood, breath or urine.  Under pressure from MADD and its allies, Ohio continued its war by making the DUI laws more draconian.

Throughout the 1990’s, MADD was growing in power and influence.  It pushed for ever-harsher laws and by the 1990’s persuaded some states to lower the standard even lower to .08% BAC.  At this time, many people started to question MADD’s real agenda.  In a stunning move of conscience and courage, Candy Lightner, MADD’s founder and spiritual leader quit the organization and spoke out against MADD’s neo-prohibitionism.  Despite these concerns, MADD was a political juggernaut. How successful was MADD in Ohio?  Here, taken from Ohio Driving Under the Influence Law, 2011-2012 ed., Weiler & Weiler, is a partial list of MADD’s legislative victories.

  • 1989 HB 381, effective July 1, 1989
  • 1990 HB 837. Increased penalties for OVI convictions and lowered the prohibited alcohol levels for juveniles and commercial drivers.
  • 1992 SB 275
  • 1993 SB 65. Added impoundment of license plates penalty and added vehicle immobilization and forfeiture penalties.
  • 1994 HB 236. Denied occupational driving privileges to offenders with three or more convictions within the prior seven year period.
  • 1996 SB 166. Provided that a fourth or higher OVI offense would be charged as a felony.  Extended the look-back period for prior offenses to six years rather than five and expanded the definition of prior convictions to include out-of-state convictions and juvenile adjudications.
  • 1999 SB 22. Provided that a prior felony OVI conviction escalated the current offense from a fourth-degree felony to a third-degree felony.  This law also created the “high-tier” penalties for BAC concentrations above .17%.

MADD was also infiltrating the federal government in Washington DC.  MADD was able to persuade the federal government to adopt a bill withholding state highway funds unless they adopted a .08% BAC standard.  Reluctantly bowing to the coercion, Ohio was one of the last states to adopt the .08% standard which it did with the adoption of Am. Sub. H.B. 87, effective June 30, 2003.

There can be no doubt that by the end of the 1990’s MADD was successful in its mission and was one of the most successful social movements of all time.  They had accumulated a tremendous amount of political influence and were flush with money.  They had no intention of declaring victory.  Instead, in 1999, MADD’s National Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the organization’s mission statement from just preventing drunk driving to include the prevention of underage drinking.   MADD formally shifted its focus away from “drunk driving” and towards the broader “problem” of drinking.  It was at this point that many started to see that MADD would never be satisfied until there existed a de facto prohibition wherein alcohol use rather than its impact would be the target of legislation.  MADD no longer cared at what cost it could achieve its goals and began actively lobbying against the protections of the United States Constitution.

The results? MADD has given us a zero tolerance for anyone caught drinking underage and a hyper vigilant police for ready to arrest our children for drinking under twenty-one.  We have students who have to take breathalyzers before entering school dances and student athletes who must provide urine to the school superintendent.  We have the expectation of drug and alcohol tests by employers.  We have sobriety checkpoints which have evolved into seat-belt and license checkpoints, eroding the standard of probable cause for arrests and giving police expanded powers.  The concept of innocent until proven guilty has given way to immediate license suspensions reeking havoc on the lives of anyone merely accused of a crime.  We have tortured laws taking away our right against self incrimination and allowing the state to target DUI offenders with forced blood draws even on first offense cases.  Jurisdictions participate in “no refusal” weekends wherein judges stand by ready to issue blood draw warrants so as to secure DUI convictions.  In the name of “protecting” us against drunk drivers we have abandoned bedrock American principles espoused by the Fourth Amendment and its privacy protection.  But alas, this is not enough for MADD.

MADD has been working with major insurance companies and automobile manufacturers to get a passive alcohol system (called DADDS) into every automobile in the world.  In 2008, at MADD’s urging, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety entered into a $10 million agreement with the federal government to develop such a technology. This system would  search every driver (not just convicted DUI offenders) every single time they started their car.  France will be the first country to require breathalyzers in all of its cars by 2012.  The new plan will force every driver to have a breathalyzer kit in their cars so they can check their alcohol level before driving. This blog has been highlighting that funding to implement this system has been approved by Congress.

MADD has also been pushing to lower the BAC to .05%.  It appears that this strategy has worked in Canada. After losing a vote in Quebec amidst widespread public opposition, MADD Canada succeeded in having the .05% BAC prohibition adopted in other parts of the country.   In THIS STORY from the Edmonton Journal, Alberta’s  legislation will impose a three-day suspension and vehicle seizure on a first-time offender in the .05-to-.08 category, while a second offence could cost the driver loss of licence and vehicle for 15 days. The legislation will be introduced next week and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis says he opposes a “money grab.”  British Columbia has also adopted this lower, harsher standard and has seen money from DUI flood its coffers.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a well-organized (over 600 chapters), well-funded (IRS Form 990 shows revenue for 2002 of $48,051,441) and dangerous group of well-intentioned zealots — the very same folks who gave us Prohibition decades ago. For many years now, MADD’s agenda has been clear: apply political pressure to get ever-harsher drunk driving laws, law enforcement and punishment.  -Lawrence Taylor-

Can it happen here?  If our local governments recent actions are any indication, it already is.  Local government now look to the criminal system as a major cash cow.  As many as 700 local jurisdictions have entered into deals with for-profit companies to install camera systems at intersections and along roadways to encourage drivers to obey traffic signals and follow speed limits.  Despite widespread opposition, red light cameras have become a major source of revenues for municipalities.  Here is a story on Franklin County’s money grab requiring inmates to pay to be in jail .  Governor John Kasich named Gary Mohr to be the next director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Mohr has been a managing director of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first, for-profit private prison company in American and has his own prison consulting business operated out of Chillicothe.  For-profit prisons are the cornerstone of Ohio’s criminal justice reforms.  Do you think that local governments would hesitate to drop the BAC limit to .05% if it would mean an increase in revenue?

DUI attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in Fairborn, Dayton, Springfield, Kettering, Vandalia, Xenia, Miamisburg, Springboro, Huber Heights, Oakwood, Beavercreek, Centerville and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself the Miami Valley’s choice for DUI defense.  Contact Charles Rowland by phone at 937-318-1DUI (937-318-1384), 937-879-9542, or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263).  For after-hours help contact our 24/7 DUI HOTLINE at 937-776-2671.  For information about Dayton DUI sent directly to your mobile device, text DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Twitter @DaytonDUI or Get Twitter updates via SMS by texting DaytonDUI to 40404. DaytonDUI is also available on Facebook and on the DaytonDUI channel on YouTube.  You can also email Charles Rowland at: CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or write to us at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.


Charles Rowland


Charles M. Rowland II has been representing the accused drunk driver for over 20 years. Contact him at (937) 318-1384 if you find yourself facing a DUI (now called OVI) charge.

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