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Everything You Need to Know About Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and DUIs

July 15, 2022

In the United States, someone dies in an alcohol-related car accident every 45 minutes. Drinking and driving laws have been in place for decades, but every day, people make the mistake of getting behind the wheel with a BAC% above the legal and safe limit. Regardless of how much you have had to drink, your blood alcohol levels can be hard to predict and even harder to regulate after a night of drinking. Here is everything you need to know about BAC and DUIs. 

Defining DUIs  

Driving under the influence (DUI), also called driving while intoxicated (DWI) or operating while intoxicated (OWI), can be a severe crime in the US with very harsh penalties. Driving, operating, or being in physical control of a vehicle in any way while under the influence is not only unsafe; it’s illegal. If you are pulled over and are found to be under the influence with a BAC over the legal limit of .08%, or even under .08%, you may be convicted of a DUI. 

DUI penalties could include jail time, fines, mandatory alcohol education programs, and the revocation of your license. In many states, including Arizona, you could be required to pay for and install an ignition interlock device that breath-tests you when you start your car.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration (%), and an excessively high BAC could be fatal. When you drink, excess alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream after being processed by the liver. So, the more you drink, the higher your bloodstream alcohol levels become. Keep in mind, there are a few key factors that can significantly affect BAC measurements. For example, your BAC increases the older you are, even if you’ve consumed the same amount of alcohol you used to when you were younger.  Because of a number of factors, such as an individual’s height, weight, or age, that’s less than one drink for some people. 

Most peoples’ ability to metabolize alcohol is relatively similar, but differences in alcohol tolerance make it hard to predict your level of alcohol intoxication at any given time. 

Measuring BAC 

There are several feasible methods when it comes to measuring BAC. A breathalyzer is the most commonly used at roadside stops. When your BAC is measured, standard measurements on the BAC% scale correspond to the level of intoxication and the amount of impairment that the intoxicated individual may be experiencing. 

  • 0.03% – People with a  BAC of .03 or lower typically start to experience impairment in vision, judgment, and experience the feeling of being “buzzed.”
  • 0.05% – Those who register 0.05 will start to have slower reflexes and challenges with decision-making. 
  • 0.08% – This is the legal limit for drivers in the US.  This is when you’re considered legally drunk. Reflexes and reaction times are significantly slower, and judgment is affected.
  • 0.10% – In addition to even slower reaction times, speech is slurred, and overall thinking is heavily impaired to a much greater degree. 
  • 0.20% – At this point, people may become ill, vomit, feel confused, and dizzy, and may experience memory loss or “blackouts.” 
  • 0.40% – Those with 0.40 BAC likely require hospitalization and death may result.  At this point, alcohol poisoning may set in, and the intoxicated individual will experience extreme deficits, permanent disability and/or death.. 

Misdemeanor DUIs vs. Felony DUIs 

In many jurisdictions, driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI) are synonyms for the same offense.  While many 1st time DUIs are generally classified as a misdemeanor, they can also be a felony under certain extreme circumstances (usually involving harm to another driver or passenger with an accident involved).   There is a huge difference between a misdemeanor conviction and a felony conviction … and driving drunk may land you with either charge, depending on where you are charged and the circumstances surrounding the offense. 

The most common charge for a DUI, as is the case in Arizona, is a misdemeanor. In simple terms, a misdemeanor, while not a positive thing to have on your permanent public record, carries less jail time and more minor fines than a felony charge. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense, with a maximum sentence of one year in jail, and the judge usually imposes a fine or probation sentence instead of a state prison sentence. Depending on each situation’s severity and circumstances, you could be charged with a felony DUI. If you are a repeat offender and this is not your first DUI, or if you injured another party while driving drunk, for example, your charges may be more severe. 

It only takes one drunk driving incident to radically alter your life. Don’t become another statistic: skip the drinks if you’re planning to drive. If you or someone you know does find themselves facing DUI charges, your first call should be an experienced DUI attorney. 

Any DUI criminal sentence, whether it be a misdemeanor or more serious, can and will affect your freedom, finances, family, credit, housing options, and even future employment opportunities. At Jeff GOULD Law, the Attorney In YOUR Corner, we protect your rights and freedoms from the potentially harsh penalties that a drunk driving conviction will mean.  Initial consultations are always FREE. 

DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog/site is NOT, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  It is for general informational use only.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Further, this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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