We all have days where we go wild and throw caution out the window. We eventually end up drinking a little too much than we ought to. What happens after your drinking spree is over dictates whether you spend the night behind bars or at home with your loved ones. Drunk driving is an offense under California law and the other states. One of the ways law enforcement officers determine your alcohol concentration is through the use of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests.
If your BAC exceeds 0.08%, you are likely to face VEH 23152 charges for driving with a BAC exceeding 0.08%. You can also face other DUI charges such as commercial DUI (for commercial drivers with a BAC exceeding 0.04%) or underage DUI (for drivers under 21 with a BAC exceeding 0.01%), among other DUI-related charges. If you are facing these charges, get in touch with an attorney from the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer for legal help.
An Overview of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Blood alcohol concentration refers to a percentage measurement of alcohol in your bloodstream after drinking. This measure determines whether a driver is legally intoxicated. Your blood alcohol concentration depends on several factors, as we will discuss below.
Your Body Weight — On average, women have 66 c.c of blood per kg body weight while men have 76 c.c. of blood per kg body weight. Not only do men have more blood to dilute alcohol, but they are also greater in size compared to women. Even men with the same bodyweight as women have a little more blood. This is because their muscle tissues contain slightly more water than fat tissues. Therefore, men who have less fat and more muscle than women have at least 10% more water in their bodies. This, in turn, helps in reducing their blood alcohol concentration.
How Quickly You Drink — The faster you drink, the quicker your BAC peaks, and the quicker you become intoxicated. Your liver metabolizes alcohol at a rate of approximately one drink every hour. If you consume more than one drink per hour, your liver is unable to keep up with your pace, and more alcohol circulates your bloodstream until your liver can catch up. Thus, the more alcohol in your blood, the higher your intoxication levels.
Food In Your Stomach — About 20% of the alcohol you drink is absorbed into your bloodstream directly through your stomach walls. The remaining 80% is absorbed into your bloodstream through your small intestine. When there is food in your stomach, alcohol absorption into the bloodstream is slow.
Food helps slow down the absorption of alcohol by preventing it from going directly to your small intestine, where the majority of alcohol absorption occurs. The effects of alcohol will still be present but at a slower rate. Drinking on a full stomach helps reduce your blood concentration levels significantly.
Alcohol Tolerance — Long term drinkers have a higher alcohol tolerance. The main reason for this is that their liver is more effective at metabolizing alcohol. People with high alcohol tolerance take more time to produce outward intoxication signs.
Medication — Medication can amplify alcohol effects in your body. Tranquilizers, Asprin, Cough medicines, and antidepressants can affect BAC when mixed with alcohol.
Once your BAC levels increase, you begin to experience impairments and side effects like:
- Slowed reaction time and reflexes
- Vomiting and nausea
- Passing out
- Slurred speech
- Memory loss, blackouts, and memory trouble
- Loss of physical coordination
- Heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing changes.
California is strict on impaired driving because of the risk that drunk driving poses to drivers and other road users. Under California law, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can be used against you when caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
Understanding BAC Effects and Levels
The levels of impairment, risks, and symptoms you experience after drinking are as a result of your blood alcohol concentration level. The known BAC levels include:
0.2%: This is the lowest BAC level. Despite being the lowest, it still has a measurable impact on your body and brain. You feel relaxed, a little warmer, have your mood altered, and you can sometimes make poor judgments.
0.05%: At this level, your behavior becomes exaggerated. Most people tend to gesture more and speak louder. You also start losing control of small muscles, like the ability of your eyes to focus, so your vision becomes blurry. Your judgment is also impaired, and coordination significantly reduced. Tracking objects becomes difficult. Your ability to respond to any emergency reduces. Your inhibitions are lowered, causing you to engage in potentially risky behaviors like drunk driving.
0.08%: In almost all 50 states except Utah, this is the current legal BAC limit. At this level, it becomes unsafe and illegal to drive. This level of blood alcohol concentration causes you to lose more coordination. Thus, your speech, balance, hearing, and reaction times get worse. Focusing on objects, standing still, and avoiding obstacles are much harder at this stage. Your self-control, reasoning, concentration, judgment, and memory are impaired.
0.10%: At this level, your control and reaction time will be reduced. Your speech will be slurred. Your reasoning and thinking are slower, and your ability to coordinate legs and arms is poor.
0.15%: This blood alcohol concentration level is quite high. You will have less control over your muscles and balance, so talking and walking become difficult. You may also fall. At the same time, symptoms like vomiting may begin.
0.20-0.29%: Confusion, stupor, disorientation, and feeling dazed are common at this level. You may require help walking and standing, as muscle control and balance will deteriorate significantly. Your pain sensations will change, so if you fall, you can seriously hurt yourself.
Vomiting and nausea are likely to occur, and your gag reflex will be completely impaired, which could lead to aspiration or choking on your vomit. Blackouts also start at this level, so you may end up participating in the events you don’t remember.
0.30-0.39%: At this BAC level, your potential for death significantly increases, and you may be unconscious. Also, your level of understanding decreases as well. You also experience an increase in heart rate, loss of bladder control, and irregular breathing.
0.40% and above: This level of blood alcohol concentration may cause sudden death or put you in a coma because your breathing or heart can suddenly stop.
The Law Concerning Blood Alcohol Concentration in CA
According to the California Vehicle Code, it is illegal for any individual to drive a vehicle under the influence, especially if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, sometimes even lower. While your blood alcohol level is not an all proof DUI evidence in all cases, a BAC level that is more than 0.08% will have you arrested, and you may end up facing punishment.
For adult driver/ non-commercial vehicles, the legal limit is 0.8%. For commercial drivers, the legal limit is 0.4%. For ride-sharing drivers, taxi, and limo, the limit is 0.4%.
The law has increased the punishment for people caught with a high blood alcohol concentration. This also applies to first time offenders. The prosecution can decide on a higher sentence for DUI, including jail or community service. Usually, first-time offenders would get a three-month alcohol school. However, because of the increased punishment level, first-time offenders have to take the nine-month alcohol school.
Generally, the higher your blood alcohol concentration is, the harsher the penalty you end up facing. Similarly, if you harm others or damage property, you will end up facing harsher penalties as well.
Blood Alcohol Concentration if You are Under 21
For individuals under the age of 21 arrested with a blood alcohol concentration level that is above the legal limit, California “zero-tolerance laws” are harsh on any driver drinking and driving below the recommended age. According to the law, someone under 21 is not supposed to drink. Thus, drinking and driving is a clear indication of a law violation.
For people under 21, the limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.01%. This means that any measurable alcohol level that shows up on the testing equipment violates the law for drivers under 21 in California. For people convicted of an underage DUI, their driving privileges are usually suspended for a year.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) For People on DUI Probation
As with under age 21 drivers, California state laws also set a 0.01% blood alcohol concentration limit for people who have pled guilty or not contested to a DUI charge and received a DUI while still on probation. If it is confirmed that you drove with a blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.01% or higher while on probation, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for a year.
How is Blood Alcohol Concentration Proven?
Under California law, proving blood alcohol concentration in a DUI case can only be done through a breath test or a blood test. The urine test is no longer a legally valid test for DUI alcohol cases, but it is common and acceptable in drug DUI cases.
DUI Breath Tests
The most common test for blood alcohol concentration in California is the breath test. These tests are minimally invasive, and they deliver instant results. Usually, breath tests fall into two categories, which are the pre-arrest and post-arrest breath tests.
- Pre-Arrest/Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) Test
A pre-arrest breath test is given before you are arrested for DUI. Typically, this test occurs at a DUI sobriety checkpoint or after a traffic stop. As a driver, you can lawfully decline a Preliminary alcohol screening test unless you are below 21 years or on probation because of a previous DUI offense.
- Post-arrest DUI Breath Tests
After a lawful arrest for driving under the influence, every individual is given the option to choose between a blood or breath test. If you select a breath test, then a post-arrest DUI breath test is administered even if you previously took the preliminary alcohol screening test. Refusing to take any test after an arrest has several consequences, like automatic suspension of your driver's license for a year or more.
Most people tend to choose this option over blood tests because it is less invasive. It is usually administered on a desktop device located at the police station. The major difference between the two tests is that, unlike the PAS tests, it is not optional despite the location of testing.
How Do DUI Breath Tests Measure Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels?
It is important to note that a breath test doesn't directly measure the alcohol percentage in a person's blood. Instead, it measures the presence of alcohol in the deepest part of your lungs, as this is closest to your blood supply. The device that is used to measure the percentage of alcohol is known as a breathalyzer.
All you have to do is breath into the device, and it will handle the rest. The breathalyzer mathematically converts the amount of alcohol in your breath into an approximate equivalent blood alcohol percentage. The formula it utilizes is known as the partition ratio. In California by law, the legal partition ratio is 2,100 to 1. This means that the alcohol amount present in 2,100 milliliters of deep lung breath is legally equal to one milliliter of alcohol found in your blood.
Unlike breath tests, blood tests directly measure alcohol levels in your blood. This means it is an accurate way of determining blood alcohol concentration. For the blood test, blood is taken by a state official and sent to the lab for comprehensive analysis. It can take weeks to get the test results back. What makes this method advantageous over the breath test method is that part of your blood sample can be saved. This means that your lawyer can get the remaining sample and have it tested independently.
How is Blood Alcohol Concentration Used During a DUI Prosecution in California?
During a DUI case in California, the prosecutor uses blood alcohol concentration along with other evidence to prove that you were either:
- Over the legal limit of BAC, or
- Impaired while driving, and thus, guilty of driving under alcohol influence
Blood alcohol is one element of drunk driving prosecution. However, the higher your BAC level is, the more likely you are impaired. To prove you were intoxicated further, the prosecution includes evidence like:
- The testimony about your physical symptoms and driving pattern of intoxication from the arresting officer,
- Proof of when you drove, and
- Testimonies from other witnesses, including passengers, if any.
How Does Your Blood Alcohol Concentration Affect the Duration and Cost of your DUI?
When you are lawfully arrested for a DUI, the arresting officer will record and report your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). As mentioned earlier, this is what helps the prosecutor to determine if they will charge you. What most people don't know is that it also determines the outcome of your arrest and the fines you have to pay. Here are the costs and consequences of different BAC levels.
- BAC Level Under 0.8%
Defendants with low blood alcohol concentration levels are either acquitted, have their charges dropped, or don't have charges filed against them by the prosecution. Also, the costs of drivers with a BAC level under the legal limit is much lower. Some of the average expenses they have to cater to include towing and storage, cost of bail, DMV fees, and attorney expenses and fees.
For those convicted for DUI offenses, the additional expenses they have to cater to include court-ordered fines and insurance rates.
- BAC Level Above 0.8%
Defendants with BAC levels above the legal limit always have their charges filed. Their average costs are higher compared to individuals with a lower BAC. Some of the expenses they have to pay for include court-ordered fines, alcohol education, and an increased car insurance cost.
Benefits of Hiring a DUI Defense Lawyer
Driving under the influence is a severe offense, and if you ever find yourself arrested for a DUI, you will want to hire a DUI defense lawyer. Here is why:
- They Understand The System
DUI defense lawyers can navigate the proceedings and courtroom with ease because it is their job. They are up to par with all the latest DUI standards, laws, requirements, and rules surrounding a blood alcohol concentration DUI case. They also know what to do to minimize penalties or sentences if you get convicted.
Having an experienced DUI lawyer guarantees that you acquire the legal help you need, especially if harsh consequences are a possibility.
- They Help You Save Money
Experience is key. Hiring an experienced DUI lawyer can help you save money, depending on the charges filed against you. With their expertise, they quickly evaluate the evidence, analyze your case for weaknesses and strengths, and instruct you on how to proceed. This, in turn, results in a minimized courtroom time and a quicker trial.
- Help You Get a Lesser Sentence
As mentioned earlier, the consequences of DUI vary depending on your blood alcohol concentration and your record. For first time offenders, the prosecuting attorney may offer you a plea offer. In such a case, your lawyer can help you decide if the plea offer is worth taking. An established DUI lawyer will have a portfolio of successful DUI cases, some resulting in reduced sentences and others dismissals. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you can easily navigate the regulations, standards, and laws.
- Your DUI Case Can Result in Dismissal
A good DUI defense lawyer will handle your case and, especially when it goes to trial, can help have your case dismissed. Experienced lawyers have in-depth and immense knowledge of DUI cases. Their experience gives them the ability to analyze your case, refute the prosecuting attorney’s argument, and provide evidence that helps strengthen your case. This, in turn, could result in your charge’s dismissal.
- They Have a Relationship with Other Professionals
Every expert lawyer has a friendly working relationship with other professionals. Sometimes, this can work to your advantage. Often, prosecution and DUI lawyers work alongside each other to negotiate a deal based on their professional relationship. This works to your advantage as it could mean dismissal, reduced charges, or lesser penalties.
- Minimize your Time in a Courtroom
Hiring a DUI defense lawyer can help you spend less time in the courtroom. DUIs are stressful and serious cases. Hiring a lawyer who has the skill and understands these types of cases means spending less time in a courtroom.
- You Can Get Your License Back
Many DUI offenses in California often result in the revocation or suspension of a driver’s license. A DUI lawyer can help in not only reducing your charges but also assisting you to get back your license. They can effectively present your case to the state Department of Motor Vehicles to help you have your license again.
- Can help in Getting Rid of Your DUI Record
All DUI cases vary, and so do the results. Some go on trial, some have their driving license revoked, and others end up becoming first-time offenders. Depending on your criminal history and case, a DUI lawyer can help lessen the consequences you receive. They can also get your DUI erased from your record. DUI’s can damage anyone’s reputation. By having it wiped from your record, you will not have to face the negative consequences that come with a criminal record, such as employment and education challenges.
Find an Expert Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer Near Me
DUIs can negatively affect different aspects of your life, from employment, housing, to your financial security. By having a DUI defense lawyer, you can be confident that your DUI case is being handled expertly. Contact an expert DUI attorney from the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer today at 714-820-9592 to get help in your case.