Drunken driving and the 0.08 limit



The in basket: Gary Moore of Central Kitsap knows someone facing a drunken driving charge even though the person blew a 0.05 on the breathalyzer test after being stopped by an officer.

There was no infraction or accident involved, he said. Another officer felt the person had driven across the edge line and radioed ahead for another officer to stop the person.

State law says 0.08 blood alcohol is the lower limit for a DUI,  he said, adding. “They can’t have it both ways.”

The out basket: Well, actually, they can.

The 0.08 is considered proof of impairment, but other things are accepted as evidence worthy of a charge. 

I asked Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol and Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police and both said there are numerous other factors that can lead an officer to cite for DUI or refer the case to the prosecutor for charging when the breath alcohol reading doesn’t make it a done deal. 

Extreme driver misbehavior and inability to do field sobriety tests (FSTs) properly are among them. 

Adds Krista:

“One, the driver may possibly be taking medications or drugs as well, which

would make that person unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.

“Two, the person’s BAC (blood alcohol) level may be going down, depending on the time of

their last drink, and how much time had passed before they were given the BAC test.  Remember, the arrest is based on the observations at the time of the stop – not one or two hours later when we get to the BAC machine.    

“Three, everyone’s body reacts to alcohol differently.  There are a lot of

people who are intoxicated that have a BAC less than the legal limit. The arrest is based on the totality of the situation.”     

Pete at BPD cited many of the same things, adding, “I’ve had a 0.06 that couldn’t do the FSTs properly. At  0.08 you are legally impaired, but if you show impairment and are under 0.08, you can be cited.”  

He provided some additional information about blood draws if something other than alcohol is suspected. Police can forcibly take blood under only four conditions, he said: Suspected vehicular homicide or assault, if the person is unconscious, or if someone has been seriously injured due to the suspected impairment.

But declining to give a blood sample is the same as refusing a breath test under the state’s “implied consent” law, Pete said, and can cost you your drivers license.




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