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Intoxication not always obvious in alleged drunk drivers

Recently, we read a news story about a woman who was arrested for DUI in another state. Police in that state noted that the woman was obviously intoxicated and had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.322 percent, which is significantly higher than the legal limit of 0.08. In fact, it is closer to the level of 0.40, which is considered to be fatal.

According to the reports, the woman was allegedly so intoxicated that she didn't seem to know that she had been in an accident or that her car was no longer moving after the accident. 

However, most people who are arrested and charged with drunk driving are not accused of being this intoxicated. In fact, many people may not even realize they are legally drunk when they get behind the wheel.

The difference between being legally sober and intoxicated behind the wheel often comes down to a single drink. It can be nearly impossible for an individual to tell when his or her BAC goes from 0.07 percent to 0.09 percent, and a person may not even feel drunk.

While we often read about people being arrested and having a BAC twice the legal limit or more, the fact is that many drivers are arrested even if they are just barely over the legal limit.

People who are just over 0.08 percent may not be swaying or dramatically slurring their speech. And while their reflexes or vision may be slightly impaired, they aren't so impaired that they are oblivious to their surroundings. Detecting intoxication when the visible signs are minimal can be extremely difficult, meaning that drivers and police can make mistakes in assessing a driver's condition. 

People facing DUI charges in Arizona may want to strongly consider speaking with an attorney to defend themselves against charges. Even the slightest calibration defect of a breath test device or misstep in police procedure could affect BAC reading and significantly change a person's life. Having a legal representative can help people identify these errors and work to have charges dismissed or reduced.

Source: Q13, "Trooper: DUI suspect was so drunk she still thought she was driving after crashing her car," Oct. 14, 2014

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