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Frederick R. Remer
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Will a lower BAC target the wrong drivers?

A drunk driving arrest can be the beginning of a very long and difficult road. Convictions for DUI carry much more weight in recent years, perhaps because the added pressure from safety advocates has made it socially unacceptable to drink and drive. A DUI on your record may affect your career path, your finances and your personal life.

In most states, a DUI arrest includes a measure of your blood alcohol content, typically using a Breathalyzer or similar device. However, you may be surprised to learn that California lawmakers are considering lowering the legal BAC limit, which some feel will target the wrong people.

Lowering the limit

Currently, all but one other state set their BAC limits at .08 percent for drivers over 21 and much lower limits for underage drivers and commercial vehicle drivers. Studies show that an average man can reach .08 after four drinks, and a woman after three drinks. If state lawmakers have their way, the new BAC limit will be .05 percent, which means a smaller person may be over the legal limit simply by having a glass or two of wine with dinner. Opponents of this bill offer the following arguments:

  • Most drunk driving accidents involve those with very high BACs, and most are repeat offenders.
  • Dropping the BAC will not deter these high-risk drivers, but will instead target drivers who drink moderately.
  • Studies show that using a hands-free mobile device is more impairing than a .05 percent BAC.
  • Lowering the BAC may not save as many lives as improving safety features in vehicles and continuing to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving.
  • Because California DUI laws include mandatory jail even for a first offense, a lower BAC means more people going to jail, including those whose breath tests falsely place them above the legal limit.

The reliability of the breath machines police use to measure the blood alcohol concentration of a driver is questionable at best. Frequently inaccurate, poorly calibrated and often used by ill-trained officers, these machines may register a .05 BAC when you have consumed little or no alcohol. This is why you should not assume that you have no defense if your BAC is over the legal limit. In fact, a skilled attorney can challenge the results of your BAC test as well as other elements of your arrest.

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