Articles Tagged with blood alcohol concentration

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Laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in New Hampshire and other states are based on research indicating that a person’s ability to drive a motor vehicle safely decreases as their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases. The “per se” BAC limit in New Hampshire is 0.08 percent, but even if a driver’s BAC is lower than this, he or she may be arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, or when one’s ability is impaired (DWI).

How does driving ability decrease as BAC increases? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an overview:

  • 0.02 percent. Some decrease in ability to track moving objects and to multitask, a key skill when driving.
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Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a measure of the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is automatically considered illegal in every U.S. state, but you may also be stopped for driving under the influence (DUI) if your driving shows signs of impairment, even if your BAC is below 0.08 percent. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person’s driving changes in predictable ways as his or her BAC goes up, allowing law enforcement to detect drunk drivers.

At 0.02 percent, many drivers typically begin to experience a slowdown in their ability to track a moving object and a lesser ability to multitask, both of which are key skills when driving. These symptoms are expected to increase as the BAC reaches 0.05 percent, along with difficulty steering and a slower response to emergency situations that require a quick stop or swerve.

At or near a BAC of 0.08 percent, a driver typically starts to lose the ability to concentrate, retain short-term memories, or control the speed of a motor vehicle. Perceptions like vision and hearing may also be impaired, leading drivers to misjudge the location of other cars, intersections, or signals. These symptoms usually get worse the higher the BAC climbs, leading eventually to an inability to keep the car in its lane or to brake properly. However, a person’s BAC does not always match these descriptions of what law enforcement typically deciphers for these different BAC levels.

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A breathalyzer, or breath testing machine, analyzes a sample of your breath and produces a number that estimates your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Breath alcohol testing machines are commonly used by police stopping people on suspicion of drunk driving since they offer an easy way to estimate whether a driver’s BAC is over the legal limit of 0.08 percent or not. In order to understand how these machines work, it’s important to know how the alcohol you drink winds up on your breath.

When you take a drink of alcohol, the liquid enters your stomach where it is temporarily stopped by the valve at the bottom of the stomach known as the pyloric sphincter. Some alcohol is absorbed into your blood through the walls of the stomach, but the majority of it is absorbed in the part of the small intestine that hooks up to the pyloric sphincter, known as the duodenum. This is one reason that eating while drinking alcohol makes the alcohol work more slowly: as you eat, you encourage the pyloric sphincter to stay closed, keeping most of the alcohol from being absorbed in the intestines.

As the alcohol enters the small intestine and is absorbed into the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body, including into the lungs. The lungs contain membranes called alveoli which spread the blood out so that it can release carbon dioxide for you to breathe out and soak up oxygen taken in when you breathe in. When the blood drops off the carbon dioxide, it also drops off a certain amount of alcohol molecules. This alcohol is what’s measured by a breath testing machine.

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New Hampshire is known for its strict penalties for those convicted of DWI/DUI. If you are a commercial driver with a commercial drivers’ license (CDL), the DWI/DUI rules that apply to you are strict.

New Hampshire Code Section 265-A:23 specifies that a driver’s license is automatically suspended if he or she is convicted of driving a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or greater“ half the limit for drivers of ordinary motor vehicles. The suspension lasts at least one year and occurs whether or not the driver has a valid CDL. If the driver is transporting hazardous materials, the suspension extends to three years. For a second conviction, the driver’s CDL will be suspended for at least ten years, and the court may choose to suspend the license indefinitely.

Although driving with a BAC of 0.04 or more can result in a DWI conviction, a New Hampshire license suspension may also occur if a commercial vehicle driver has any alcohol in his or her system at all. Under Section 265-A:24, any commercial driver who has had any alcohol at all or who refuses to take a chemical test to measure his or her blood alcohol content, is automatically placed out of service for 24 hours. Like drivers of private motor vehicles, all commercial drivers in New Hampshire give their implied consent to chemical tests for intoxication when they receive their New Hampshire driver’s license.

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Penalties for a DWI in New Hampshire can vary widely depending on the level of intoxication, whether it’s a first or subsequent offense, in addition to other factors.

Several DUI penalties depend on the level of intoxication, determined by the level of alcohol in the blood. For example, in New Hampshire, anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher is deemed to be intoxicated. No additional proof of intoxication is needed. Individuals under age 21 who have a BAC of .02 are considered to be intoxicated. In New Hampshire, individuals with a BAC of .16 or over will face greater penalties, such as extra time in jail or larger fines.

In New Hampshire, drivers whose BAC level is above the limit for intoxication or those who refuse to take a chemical test to determine intoxication will have their driver’s licenses suspended for at least six months, possibly more, depending on the outcome of their case. After a second offense, the license is suspended for three years and a third offense results in a five year suspension.

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A recent sobriety checkpoint setup on Route 3 managed to net a total of six arrests from June 12th to June 13th. The New Hampshire drunk driving sobriety checkpoint was enforced late Saturday night and ran until early Sunday morning. In all, 130 motorists were stopped as a result of the checkpoint, but only six were found to be either driving under the influence of alcohol or in possession of drugs or alcohol. According to a Union Leader report, the arrests involved motorists between the ages of 20 and 52, and consisted of charges centering-around DWI and drug possession to transportation of alcohol by a minor.

While it is certainly worthwhile to remove impaired drivers from the road, the manner in which motorists are removed needs to be critically examined in order to ensure that innocent drivers are afforded every available right that they are entitled to. During a traffic stop, there are numerous details that can simply go wrong, from procedural actions to malfunctioning blood alcohol concentration machines to improperly trained and uncertified officers administering field sobriety tests. In the event that an individual is accused of New Hampshire DWI or DUI, then that individual’s best course of action should involve retaining the services of an experienced Manchester DWI defense attorney who will examine the circumstances surrounding the arrest to ensure that the rights of the accused were in no way violated.

It is important to remember that breathalyzers and other devices used to determine blood alcohol concentration are not always 100% accurate. Improperly calibrated devices and improper device usage can both lead to false positives, and can place otherwise innocent motorists in the rather precarious position of having to face a New Hampshire DUI/DWI charge, which could include jail time, hefty fines, and possible administrative license suspension. If you have been accused of DWI/DUI in New Hampshire, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced New Hampshire DWI defense attorneys at Tenn And Tenn, P.A. Our skilled defense attorneys will examine the circumstances of your arrest and will mount a strong defense on your behalf. For more information, please call Tenn And Tenn, P.A. today at 1-888-511-1010.