As you’ve read elsewhere on this blog, when determining a person’s BAC (blood alcohol content), the size of a drink matters, as does the amount of time that has passed since a person has had that drink. It takes about one hour for the liver to metabolize (rid the body) of one standard drink. For this reason, a person can blow a .08 the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Equally surprising to most people is that you can be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) even if you don’t register a .08 on the breathalyzer.
So how is a DUI charge possible without blowing a .08? A person can be charged for driving while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that s/he is “unable to drive their car with the same caution characteristic of a sober person, of ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances.”
How does the prosecution go about proving that alcohol impaired the driver’s abilities to the extent necessary to support a conviction when the BAC is below .08? The same way they do any criminal case based on circumstantial evidence, such as: the manner in which the car was driven, the physical signs and symptoms of the driver or the driver’s performance on field sobriety tests.
Here are a few excerpts from the California DMV chart to show where a person’s BAC might fall after having “a couple of drinks” and then driving:
110-129 lbs: if you consume 2 or more standard drinks within 1 hour or less, your BAC is probably .08% or higher (in other words, you would likely get a DUI).
130-149 lbs: if you consume 3 or more standard drinks within 2 hours or less, your BAC is probably .08% or higher
170-189 lbs: if you consume 4 or more standard drinks within 2 hours or less, your BAC is probably .08% or higher
In California, if you are under 21 and your BAC results showed 0.01% or more, your driving privilege will be suspended for 1 year.
And, one more thing while on this subject – putting a penny under your tongue or eating peanut butter (yes, some people carry a jar of peanut butter under their seat), eating a breath mint or chewing gum will not “fool” a breathalyzer.
So this Labor Day Week-End, drive defensively, drive safely – don’t drink and drive.