Here in Indiana, you can be charged with an owi related offense either by having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, demonstrating visible indications of intoxication via signs of impairment, or by testing positive for one of the listed drugs within the Indiana Code.
For the purpose of this brief outline, bac test levels and their relation to potential legal charges are only significant in regard to the ingestion of alcohol. Impaired operation offenses based upon the presence of illegal drug consumption are evidenced by blood draw exclusively. As a result, the presence of the drugs itself is singly required to pursue criminal charges based upon driving activity with illegal drugs found within the blood of a criminal suspect.
First, we need to differentiate between expended breath and/or compelled blood extraction. In some states, citizens have the right to decide what kind of blood alcohol test they want. Usually the choice is between a breath test, which can sometimes be tested in the field where the original vehicle stop happens, or a blood test.
The eventual admissible breath and/or blood test conducted through a validly executed search warrant is conducted off site. In Indiana, once an officer has the right to perform a blood alcohol test, the officer can decide which test to administer. In this jurisdiction a suspected drunk driver does not have the right to select what type of test procedure is effectuated.
IC 9-30-5-1 is the statute that governs what offense level you can be charged with dependent upon test result. The standards for a Class C misdemeanor DUI (the lowest level) based on BAC (“blood alcohol content”) or breath tests are:
“an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least eight-hundredths (0.08) gram of alcohol but less than fifteen-hundredths (0.15) gram of alcohol per:
(1) one hundred (100) milliliters of the person’s blood; or
(2) two hundred ten (210) liters of the person’s breath;”
If you have more than .15 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of your blood or 210 liters of your breath, then the OWI charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor.
What is blood alcohol content?
You’ve heard phrases like “blew a .08” or “had a blood alcohol content of .12” when talking about getting a DUI; but what do those phrases actually mean?
Blood alcohol content is fairly basic – how much alcohol is in your blood. When someone refers to the number .08, what that means is there are .08 grams of alcohol in every decilitre of blood. It actually does not mean that you are drunk. Every person processes and absorbs alcohol differently. A person with a lower than .08 BAC can still be guilty of a DUI in cases of demonstrated impairment.
BAC can be identified using the breath test, even though there is no blood involved in that test. Alcohol shows up in the breath test because it is absorbed not only in the stomach and intestines, but in the mouth and throat as well. This alcohol goes straight to the bloodstream and into the air sacs in the lungs. Alcohol is mixed with everything else, but one of alcohol’s chemical properties is that it evaporates from a solution it is mixed with. Thus, when you breathe out after you’ve been drinking, you are actually exhaling alcohol. The breath tests measure the output of alcohol from your lungs to determine your BAC.
How can I know what my BAC is?
It isn’t possible to know what your BAC is unless you have a personal breath analysis machine. Some companies do sell those machines, but they are not always accurate. The police often have to recalibrate their machines in order to keep them accurate. There are a few rules of thumb, though.
- A woman who drinks the same as a man will have a higher BAC, even if she is the same size as the man;
- Eating before drinking slows alcohol absorption; and
- People who weigh less are more affected by alcohol than people who are heavier.
There are many factors that go into BAC test results and understanding their legal admissibility and implications. A fundamental understanding of these test results will be an essential step in working with legal counsel toward determining the best legal outcome in regard to the viability of a given alcohol or drug related driving prosecution.