Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) .08

blood alcohol content bac 08

The concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream is directly related to the level of impairment a person experiences. This impairment affects several different areas, including muscle coordination, reasoning, perception, judgment and self-control. When it comes to operating a vehicle, any amount of alcohol can affect the mind and body of the person behind the wheel to varying degrees.

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 is the legal limit that defines when a person is intoxicated in all 50 states. A .08 BAC will lead to a DUI arrest and conviction, because of the danger this level of alcohol poses to the driver, as well as to others. Blood tests, breathalyzer tests and ignition interlock devices are all used to measure the BAC in a person suspected of driving under the influence, as well as those that have been convicted of a DUI offense.

Preventing Ignition Interlock Circumvention

ignition interlock device tampering circumvent disableIgnition interlock devices exist to cut down on traffic accidents and deaths caused by drunk driving. These devices require a breath sample from a vehicle’s driver before the vehicle can be started and driven. Ignition interlock devices test the breath sample for a certain level of alcohol. Failure to either provide a sample or pass the alcohol detection results in an inability to operate the vehicle. This result, of course, has led to various types of attempts to circumvent, or somehow manipulate, the ignition interlock device.

Preventing ignition interlock circumvention begins with understanding the ways people have attempted to go around them in the past. Common circumvention methods include driving non-interlocked vehicles, trying to remove the device, and using another’s breath for the test (human and non-human). The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has study results showing that the use of ignition interlock devices works to reduce recidivism, so it is important to prevent their circumvention.

One of the ways some states are preventing ignition interlock circumvention is by “rolling retests”. This involves requiring the driver to blow into the device during random times while the car is running. The driver is alerted to when the retest is required through sound and digital displays and usually has six minutes to pull over and submit a breath sample. If the driver fails the retest, the vehicle’s horn will beep and/or the lights will flash to alert an officer. The main purpose of running tests is to make sure the driver of the vehicle is actually sober and did not circumvent the ignition interlock device by having another person breathe into it.

Other states synchronize a digital camera to the blowing action in order to capture evidence of who is blowing into the ignition interlock device. An added advantage is that a person needs to be taught to blow properly into the device, thereby preventing ignition interlock circumvention by way of assuming an inebriated person would have difficulty teaching a sober person how to perform the act correctly. The devices also have temperature and air gauges in order to keep people from simply using compressed air as a way of circumventing them.

Technically, cars can be “hot wired” to bypass the breath test; however, this will result in an early service recall and possibly cause the vehicle’s horn to beep and the lights to flash, as well as logging a violation into the device’s database. Service recalls are required about once per month in order to download the information stored within the devices.

There are other ways of preventing ignition interlock circumvention and device manufacturers update features regularly. These devices not only help to keep drunk drivers off the streets, they have also been shown to lower recidivism rates. This ability to help lessen the incidence of repeat offenders is one of the great benefits of ignition interlock devices, making the ability to prevent circumvention a national priority.

DUI “Taxes”

DUI Taxes costs for drinking and driving

 

In 2000, the NHTSA developed formulas for estimating the true number of vehicles being operated by drivers under the influence of alcohol. That year, there were over 2 million alcohol-related crashes that killed 16 thousand people, and injured over 513 thousand people, accounting for 26% of all vehicle crashes.  When crunching the numbers, the extra cost of each alcoholic beverage consumed, as related to the monetary and quality of life costs associated with a DUI is $1 for drinkers who drive and 60 cents for non-driving drinkers.

Recent statistics put the percentage of alcohol-related crashes at 31%, however, the overall DUI rate has dropped due to tougher DUI laws that impose fines, alcohol education classes, mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices, and public awareness campaigns.

Women and DUI

women and duiMore women are being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) than ever before. While the percentage of men being arrested for DUI has steadily decreased over the last thirty years, the percentage of women has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, there is more to this issue than meets the eye.

When it comes to women and DUI, there is a little controversy to discover. Industry experts may cite increased rates of binge drinking among women as one of the reasons for the higher percentage of DUI arrests. Sociologists may point out that our culture has changed and more women are not only drinking, but there are simply more women drivers than there were thirty years ago. Both may be factors, but there are also other factors that perhaps only a DUI attorney would understand.

Most laboratory studies on how alcohol impairs driving skills have been done using men, but medical research shows that the bodies of women handle alcohol differently than men. The way a woman’s body metabolizes alcohol causes women to reach higher blood alcohol (BAC) levels than men after drinking the same amount. Since alcohol tends to go where the water is and women generally have more water in their bodies than men, women may have more alcohol in their systems than a man would given the same intake and time allowed for burnoff.

Another factor to consider when discussing women and DUI is that breathalyzers may give false readings. A breathalyzer is a machine attached to a straw that people breathe into when police suspect they are driving while intoxicated. The machine detects alcohol levels in the breath. There are studies being done on forensic breath testing issues because it is well-known in the field that since a woman’s lung capacity tends to be less than a man’s, she will likely end up with an artificially high reading. Several studies have been published about this issue, but there haven’t been any modifications made in police procedure.

The issue of women and DUI is unique enough that attorneys are now studying how to defend the women who get arrested. There are studies that show how a woman’s menstrual cycle and contraceptive choice affect how she metabolizes alcohol, as well as studies indicating that women have fewer alcohol metabolizing enzymes than men. Still, most information about DUI does not take into consideration the special conditions a woman arrested for DUI may present.

In this day and age, it is normal to think of men and women as interchangeable, but when issues of women and DUI come up, we begin to remember than women and men are not the same and it may be unjust to pretend they are. Any woman who gets arrested for DUI and doesn’t understand why may want to contact an attorney, because some attend special seminars about how to address the potentially special circumstances of women and DUI. But, keep in mind that there are no excuses for drinking and driving and the best defense is to never drink and drive.

NTSB and Ignition Interlock Recommendations

ntsb and ignition interlock devicesEveryone knows that driving while drunk is dangerous, yet every year in the United States, 900,000 people are arrested for DUI/DWI and only a third of those people are repeat offenders. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recently adopted a study finding that alcohol-impaired drivers are the leading cause of wrong-way driving crashes. With this data to support such measures, the NTSB is now recommending that all first-offender alcohol-impaired drivers have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

Ignition interlocks prevent an engine from starting until the driver provides a breath sample and the device registers the sample as lower than prescribed limits. The driver blows into a straw attached to an electronic box that analyzes the driver’s breath for alcohol content. The device is permanently attached to the car and disrupts the driver’s ability to start the car should the driver choose not to blow into the straw or should the driver’s breath register alcohol levels above a certain limit. At this point in time, only seventeen states require ignition interlocks for first-time offenders.

There have been numerous studies on the effect alcohol consumption has on driving ability. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 has been documented as being too dangerous to operate any heavy machinery, especially machinery as deadly as motor vehicles. With a BAC of .08, drivers experience sedation, poor coordination, and slower reaction times. Even with a BAC lower than .08, poor coordination and slow reaction times are factors when driving.

The surest way to avoid alcohol-impaired driving is to never drink and drive. It can take up to six hours for BAC levels to go from .08 to .00 and for each drink of alcohol, anyone planning to drive should wait forty-five minutes so that the body has time to adjust. That means to wait forty-five minutes per drink in order to avoid driving under the influence.

Every DUI/DWI is avoidable and while it is admirable that the NTSB is taking a stronger position against the potential for repeat offenses, it is important to remember that most DWI arrests are first-time offenses. Since drunk-driving fatalities account for nearly thirty-one percent of all traffic-related deaths, it is important to remember that driving after drinking is simply unnecessary and dangerous.

Due to changes implemented following the recent recommendations of the NTSB, could the United States follow in France’s footsteps by requiring all citizens to have handheld breathalyzers in their vehicles? Only time will tell. Until then, perhaps more states will require even first-time DWI offenders to install ignition interlock devices, keeping more drunk drivers off our roads.

Open Container Laws

Drinking and driving and public intoxication are both issues that have led to the creation of “open container laws.” After a few drinks, a person can display behaviors that are dangerous, destructive and/or present a lack of common sense that is necessary to protect the interests of all others. Each state in the U.S. has different open container laws that restrict the ability of citizens to make poor choices after drinking alcohol.

In order to encourage states to comply with open container laws and the concerns over public alcohol consumption, The United States Federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and MAP-21 acts were established over the past 15 years. These acts include six different aspects to open container laws:

  • Prohibit the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle;
  • Law enforcement must include the examination of the passenger area of any motor vehicle in any traffic stop, including any areas of the vehicle that are within reach of the seated driver or passengers;
  • All alcoholic beverages are included in these laws;
  • All vehicle occupants are subject to open container laws, with exceptions for those riding in taxis, limousines or buses;
  • All vehicles on a public highway are subject to these laws;
  • Law enforcement is not required to have “probable cause” regarding any other vehicle violations in order to stop a vehicle suspected of violating open container laws.

39 states are currently in compliance with TEA-21, and, as such, receive financial incentives for highway construction. For states not in compliance, a percentage of transportation funds is redirected to alcohol education programs. These laws have been shown successful in reducing the rates of alcohol-related vehicle crashes, including a 5.1% reduction in fatal crashes in states with open container laws.

The overwhelming public support for these laws indicates that the majority of citizens believe that by eliminating open containers of alcohol in vehicles, the catastrophic issues that can occur through drinking and driving can be reduced. Open container laws are a source of security and safety for everyone, including drivers, passengers and the occupants of other vehicles on the road.

DUI Misdemeanor vs. Felony

Drinking and Driving Misdemeanor vs FelonyA DUI arrest and conviction can have a wide range of penalties and court-ordered restitution elements, depending on several factors. Each state has its own definitions of a DUI conviction; however, most DUI convictions fall under either a misdemeanor or felony. Regardless of the classification of the DUI conviction, any DUI has a life-altering effect that can last for years.

Misdemeanor DUIs are typically alcohol-related driving offenses that have proven to be isolated incidents, first-time offenses, or the circumstances surrounding the misdemeanor DUI provide little danger to others. If a person is arrested and convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, the consequences and penalties are still harsh, but, these penalties are designed to dissuade the driver from further DUI activity. A misdemeanor DUI can carry a sentence that includes probation, court costs and fines, driver education programs, the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, jail time and/or other means of punishment that vary by each state.

Felony DUIs are much more serious, and include evidence of a habitual habit of drinking and driving, or the potential or actual injury or death of others involved in the DUI offense. For instance, if a person is charged with a DUI after having other passengers in the car, especially minors, or has other DUI convictions on her or his record, a felony DUI conviction can occur. The same conviction is true if another person is injured or killed by a drunk driver. A felony DUI carries a much stricter sentence that includes many of the same penalties as a misdemeanor DUI, including court costs, incarceration in a prison, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

All DUI charges are severe, and come with the knowledge that driving under the influence of alcohol is a dangerous practice. By remaining sober behind the wheel or designating a sober driver when there will be alcohol present at a party or during a night of fun at a bar, the chances of any type of DUI conviction are eliminated.

DUI Expungement

Erase your DUI from your driving record Any DUI or alcohol-related driving offense can have consequences for many years after a conviction. Once a person is convicted of a DUI, there is a lengthy process that begins with court-related costs and fines, as well as restrictions for driving, including the installation of an ignition interlock device.

A DUI is a criminal offense, however, that continues to play a large factor in the life of the person convicted of the crime. Once a convicted DUI offender has completed the terms of his or her sentence for driving while under the influence of alcohol, the DUI conviction remains on public record for many years. It is this public record of a DUI conviction that can continue to compromise the quality of life, even for a first-time offender who has never touched alcohol again.

A DUI conviction will show up on any type of criminal background check, and can affect employment, credit, insurance and many other necessary avenues in life. However, there are states that can and will expunge a DUI under the right circumstances. Expungement of a criminal offense removes it entirely from a criminal record, and will destroy or seal any type of evidence being held that is related to that conviction.

State laws on criminal record expungement can vary, but many will automatically expunge a record of a first-offense, if the convicted offender completes the requirements related to the conviction. If that is not the case, but the offender qualifies for expungement, a motion will need to be filed in the jurisdiction of the conviction for expungement of a criminal record, and the offender will have to appear in court to plead his or her case.

For the person convicted of a DUI, the lingering effects of the conviction can compromise a variety of aspects of living. After the court-related fines and costs are paid, ignition interlock requirements are satisfied and a sufficient amount of time has passed without any further arrests or convictions, it is possible for a DUI conviction to be expunged from a criminal record.

There’s No Excuse for Drinking and Driving

Drinking and Driving Excuses Infographic

There’s No Excuse for Drinking and Driving.

Making the decision to drive while under the influence of alcohol is a costly and potentially deadly mistake. A person who has been drinking does not have the capacity to make a choice that is in his or her best interest, not to mention the safety of those on the road. How many of these excuses have you heard from someone at a bar or party? Would you make the same excuses, knowing the reality of a DUI?

Difference between OWI, DUI and DWI

A drunk driving conviction is not only a legal situation that has a wide range of personal, financial and potentially deadly consequences, but it can also carry those consequences into a person’s life for many years. When a driver is charged and/or convicted of drinking and driving, the legal world is set in motion. Understanding the different terminology of alcohol-related driving convictions can help the person realize the depth of his or her illegal activity, possibly even eliminating the possibility of further convictions.

While somewhat interchangeable, the legal definitions of drunk driving convictions are DUI, DWI and OWI.

Difference between OWI, DUI and DWIDriving Under the Influence (DUI): While alcohol is the most common substance found in any person convicted of a DUI, drugs and inhalants used while driving can also result in a DUI conviction. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) can be measured at a traffic stop through a Breathalyzer test, resulting in a DUI arrest. The DUI term is the most commonly used descriptor for these arrests and convictions.

Driving While Intoxicated/Impaired (DWI): Just like a DUI, a DWI can refer to the use of alcohol, drugs or inhalants while driving. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) may be tested at a traffic stop, or field sobriety tests may be used in order to determine whether a driver is intoxicated/impaired. The DWI term is somewhat less common than DUI.

Operating While Intoxicated/Impaired (OWI): Also known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI), this term refers to a broader definition of what constitutes dangerous activities including a vehicle and alcohol or other substance. Activities include sitting in a parked car while it is on, or even sleeping in a car while it is in “park.”

Not all states use the same terminology when it comes to alcohol-related driving offenses, and each state has penalties for drunk driving convictions. Pentalties for DUI, DWI or OWI can include fines, incarceration, installation of ignition interlock devices and much more. Knowing the risks involved to the driver and others on the road, operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is a mistake that can have life-long consequences. Always be sure to drive safely and obey the laws surrounding drinking and driving.

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