All states have enhanced the penalties for intoxicated driving during the past two decades and each one uses blood alcohol content levels in determining the severity of the DUI charge. Additionally, states have included driving under the influence of controlled substances as basis for an impaired driving charge, along with possible drug possession. It is important for anyone caught driving under the influence of alcohol to understand that the field sobriety test and the blood alcohol content analysis are different tools in determining impairment.
What is Blood Alcohol Concentration?
Blood alcohol content is the measurement of alcohol concentration in an individual’s blood system. Following the arrest, impairment levels are determined at the police station and used as actual evidence in filing the charge, but mitigating circumstances can impact the level of the charge. Blood alcohol concentration can affect individuals differently, for example, larger people will have a weaker concentration from similar amounts of alcohol compared to smaller individuals.
What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
A field sobriety test is the process which requires the suspected impaired driver to perform certain physical tasks. Whether it’s a California or New Jersey DUI attorney, most lawyers can attest to the fact that even though an officer usually includes a breathalyzer analysis in the traffic stop, the original analysis is inadmissible in court. Those who fail the breathalyzer evaluation are arrested under reasonable suspicion. The blood alcohol content measurement after the arrest is considered official and establishes probable cause, along with determining the level of the charge.
How Do BAC Levels Enhance a DUI charge?
The severity of the charge is determined by the alcohol content level and mitigating circumstances. Multiple offenders will often refuse testing and allow the officer’s testimony as the basis for the arrest. In most states, this is an automatic suspension of driving privileges, but can make the intoxicated driving charge more flexible for reduction. However, it always results in suspended driving privileges.
How are BAC Levels Classified?
Blood alcohol content levels are generally applied differently in some cases because of age or circumstances. A BAC of .02 is the threshold for underage drivers and a charge of illegal possession of alcohol is normally added to the DUI. The .02 level is also applied to commercial vehicle operators and can greatly impact employment for CDL holders. Adult impaired driving is assessed at the levels of .08, but the range for reckless driving is a .05 minimum. The state considers driver impairment at the threshold of .08, with enhanced penalties for BAC ranges of .10 to .159. Intoxicated drivers with a BAC level of .16 or greater are charged with aggravated DUI. Some states have actually set the aggravated charge minimum at .14.
Does the BAC Analyzer Measure Controlled Substances?
No. But, it is never good sign if the officer wants to test the suspect at a professional medical facility. Professional medical evaluation can determine the presence of any controlled substance in the circulatory system. Positive tests can also be used as evidence in additional drug charges. Refusing to submit to any testing can result in the court issuance of a testing order prior to prosecution. Further refusal by the defendant constitutes contempt of court and carries an incarceration penalty.
It is important for anyone arrested for suspicion of DUI to understand that the arresting officer is an officer of the court. The officer’s testimony is considered official by the prosecutor and any overturning of the testimony must be done in open court. Refusing to submit to BAC testing can only worsen a situation that is already bad enough in most cases and will create immediate need of legal counsel.
Ieda Vincent is a former phlebotomist and blood analyst who provides this information in an effort to educate and raise awareness for responsible drinking. Levow & Associates represents those that require a New Jersey DUI attorney with extensive defense strategies and training in blood and alcohol testing. They are present throughout the entire state serving individuals in all 21 New Jersey counties.