There are many reasons why someone might have concerns about their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels after an arrest, especially in cases of driving under the influence (DUI). If they are found guilty, their BAC plays a substantial role in determining what consequences they face. Whether it’s a financial penalty, jail time, revocation or suspension of driving privileges, probation length, or compulsory attendance at alcohol education programs, they are all determined in part by the BAC at the time of arrest.
The BAC is generally measured at the time of the traffic stop, and can generally be broken down into the following levels. Keep in mind that these levels are presented as merely estimates and not 100% accurate, as a wealth of factors can affect the impact alcohol has on your system. That said, it’s important to be aware of where the legal limits are and what possible consequences they can bring.
Since no people are alike, the effects of alcohol on one person can be completely different. The actual BAC number is not an accurate reflection of the impairment of any individual and just because someone is accused of DUI because they had a breath or blood test come back with a random number does not mean that they are guilty. It is a subjective number without objective evidence to support an assertion or assumption by law enforcement.
Again, these numbers below have no correlation with impairment. They are just for context and have no scientific validity.
- BAC of .00%: Baseline sobriety, with no impairment of motor skills or cognitive function.
- BAC of .02%-.06%: The potential for reduced ability to operate a vehicle, respond to sudden emergencies or track objects visually. This range falls below the legal limit of .08%, however those who hold a commercial driver’s license and those under 21 years of age can still received a DWI at this level.
- BAC of .07%-.09%: Occupying a range on either side of the legal limit, this BAC could potentially see a driver less able to control speed, brake in time, perceive the road ahead of them, maintain their position in a lane, and process visual hazards. Physically, they may experience impediments in vision, speech, and balance.
- BAC of .1%-.12%: Now exceeding the legal limit, drivers with this level of alcohol in their system could potentially experience major loss of judgement, as well as severely diminished response times to hazards in the road.
- BAC of .13%-.15%: At this level, the driver could potentially experience loss of balance and difficulties with vision. Under Oklahoma law, drivers who show a BAC at this level could potentially be subjected to greater fines and more potential jail time.
- BAC of .16%-.2%: This range of BAC the driver could potentially see the driver unable to walk unaided, have loss of bladder control, consciousness and overall function.
- BAC of .35%-.4: This extreme level of intoxication could potentially result in loss of consciousness, coma, or death due to respiratory failure.
What Can Affect These BAC Results?
While the law sets the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle at a BAC of .08%, that level of intoxication will by no means affect any two people the same way. There are a host of factors that can skew their personal tolerance as well as the results they would see from a BAC test.
Body Mass Index (BMI): As BAC tests measure the amount of alcohol in the blood, those with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) tend to test lower due to their increased size requiring a greater amount of blood in the system. While it’s not the sole factor, those with a lower BMI can test higher than the typical person.
Biological Gender: Differences in metabolism and overall body composition between genders can also have an impact on BAC results. In general, those assigned female at birth have a higher proportion of fat in their body, slowing absorption of alcohol and result in higher BAC readings.
Metabolism: Just as an individual’s metabolism determines how quickly they process food, it also determines how quickly they process alcohol. The slower the metabolism - due to age, liver health or simply genetic predisposition – the longer it takes to eliminate alcohol from the body.
Nature of Consumption: The rate at which alcohol is introduced to the system can influence BAC results, with rapid consumption of large amounts in a short time skewing results higher than if the same amount had been consumed slowly. In addition, taking in food along with the alcohol can slow its absorption into the bloodstream, lowering BAC.
Tolerance: Some individuals, whether through a quirk of genetics or through frequent consumption, simply tolerate alcohol better. Their bodies metabolize it more quickly, they feel fewer physiological effects, and they demonstrate lower BACs after consuming the same amount as someone of equal size.
With so many mitigating factors involved, providing accurate results in measuring BAC requires the utmost precision, professional analysis and rigorous testing.
Hundreds of Other Reasons Why Your BAC Could Be Wrong
Blood alcohol concentration levels can be influenced by a multitude of factors. These range from the varying rates at which alcohol is absorbed to the timing of your last drink. Additionally, factors like your health conditions, environmental circumstances, and even the hours of sleep you got play a role. Specific influences can encompass age, liver functionality, genetic predispositions, certain medications, the presence of residual mouth alcohol, conditions like Acid Reflux & GERD, diabetes, dietary habits, body temperature, and exposure to specific chemicals and interferents.
Challenging BAC Results
While blood and breath tests for blood alcohol content are the standard for measuring a driver’s impairment, they are not always accurate. Challenging everything from the way samples were handled to the precision of the equipment to the qualifications of those administering the tests can provide opportunities to refute the results. And there are many reasons a test may return inaccurate results, including:
Equipment Issues: No technology works perfectly every time, and that applies to the technology used to measure blood and breath. These devices require precise calibration and regular maintenance to perform properly and must be utilized properly during testing to measure true BAC. Any issues with maintenance, operation or calibration can render results useless. Even certain types of testing equipment and testing protocols have an intrinsic margin of error that can be challenged.
Personal Physiology: As we outlined above, the means by which we measure BAC are not one-size-fits-all, and a person’s unique physiology can play a huge part in affecting their results. A person’s own body mass index (BMI), their metabolic rate, their overall health and their individual tolerance can cause higher readings than most. Also, some medical conditions can affect results include diabetes and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Improper Handling: Blood and breath samples can be easily compromised if not handled properly or if allowed to be contaminated. For breath tests, improper collection of the sample can skew results, as can the presence of contamination from alcohols such as mouthwash. For blood tests, samples must be handled and stored properly or the alcohol present does not ferment, increasing the measured BAC beyond what was present at the time of the arrest. For both blood and breath tests, a delay between the time of the arrest and the time of testing can cause discrepancies between actual and measured BAC.
Junk Science and BAC Testing
Within the legal context of a challenge to BAC results, “junk science” is a term that references evidence or scientific methods that are unreliable, inherently flawed or lack the discipline required by science. Beyond simply questioning the results, this is a way to examine every step in the process of measuring BAC, ensuring integrity at every level.
A few questions worth asking to ensure the methods used are valid and not “junk science” include:
Was there scientific validation? The methods used to measure BAC must be rigorously validated and subjected to intense scrutiny. Otherwise, it casts serious doubts over the reliability of the tests and the accuracy of their results.
Were adequate testing protocols in place? Certain standard testing protocols that law enforcement agencies use to test blood and breath have been heavily criticized within the scientific community. As they fail to account for potential error sources such as interference and physiological factors, their results can be disputed.
Was the technology used outdated? Like any technology, the science used in measuring BAC is constantly evolving. Often, law enforcement is slow to evolve along with it, leaving them using equipment that is outdated, unreliable and ultimately inaccurate.
Was the test sufficiently transparent? If law enforcement cannot or refuses to disclose details about the methodologies of their testing, or the algorithms and calculations employed to determine BAC, it can nullify the ability of independent experts and defense attorneys to scrutinize the process. Full transparency is required to ensure accurate results.
These questions will obviously not apply to all DUI cases, but it’s important to ask them. Otherwise, junk science can taint the BAC test results and lead to unwarranted fines, jail time and consequences.
We Are Here to Help
Being arrested for DUI and being convicted for DUI are not the same thing. There is still the opportunity to ask the right questions about your arrest, your BAC tests, and the circumstances surrounding your case. It just comes down to preparation.
The side that prepares more thoroughly for a case consistently achieves better results. It’s a philosophy that has driven Hunsucker Legal Group since the beginning, urging us to look deeper and investigate further for you and for your freedom. We ask the right questions, we look into every piece of evidence and every statement, and we walk up to the negotiating table and into the courtroom better prepared than the prosecution.
It’s how we fulfill our mission to protect you, relieve the burden associated with your case, and achieve the absolute best possible outcome for your legal matter. Fill out the form below to schedule a no-obligation evaluation of your case.
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