Blood Alcohol Content: The Higher The Number, The Worse The Penalty
After a night out, there’s always the question of getting home safely. While most opt for safe rides home with ride-share services or designated drivers, many still choose to drive themselves home. The likelihood of a drunk driver causing a fatal crash is high, and therefore all states have established laws (DUI penalties).
However, these penalties are continually changing. Many states have begun to punish not only based on driving under the influence but the blood alcohol content itself. The higher your BAC may mean the more severe the penalty. Forty-eight states, D.C. and Guam, have all increased the penalties for drunk drivers.
Blood Alcohol Concentration
In order to fully understand the penalties, you have to understand BAC. You can hear someone say the phrase “they blew a 0.01,” but what does it really mean? Essentially, the blood alcohol content is the percentage of alcohol you have in your bloodstream. BAC is determined by how much you drink, as well as many other factors including:
- Biological sex
- Medications you are taking
- Drinking timeframe
As you consume alcohol, the above factors weigh in and pair with the amount you drink to determine your BAC. In order to understand the laws that will be discussed, it’s important to know what types of paralyzing behavior you’d likely see with each BAC level:
- 0.01-0.03: legal level for most states, minimal mood elevation
- 0.04-0.06: minor reasoning impairment, warmth, and relaxation
- 0.07-0.09: mild impairment of speech, balance, control, vision
- 0.10-0.12: loss of judgment, slurred speech, impairment
- 0.13-0.15: loss of balance, severe impaired vision, lack of motor control
- 0.16-0.20: nausea, restlessness
- 0.25-0.30: vomiting, confusion, unable to walk
- 0.35-0.40: loss of consciousness
- 0.40 or higher: onset of coma, respiratory failure, death
Higher DUI Penalties in Different States
As stated previously, many states have already established laws to penalize drunk driving. However, many states and territories are now cracking down: if you have a higher BAC level, then your penalty will be much worse. Updated in October 2019, each state’s drunk driving laws have now intensified according to Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
So, what does the penalty look like, and at what levels?
In most states, drunk driving with a .15-.16 BAC will earn you roughly 3-6 months of a suspended license. This means that if you’re caught driving on a suspended license, the penalties are amplified even more. There is also the risk of vehicle impoundment or jail time.
States are continuing to increase the pressure that comes with being caught drunk driving. In some cases, such as Alabama, a first offense will get your license revoked for 90 days and include an ignition interlock device (IID) that has to be installed into your car and could stay for roughly 2 years. These interlock devices are breathalyzers that require you to blow and test your breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) before you can even start your car.
There are also different fines and jail times that come with each state that vary. For example, Florida law states that with a .15 BAC on your first offense, you could receive up to 9 months in jail paired with a $1,000-$2,000 fine. They aren’t the only ones: many other states also implement monetary fines or jail time as punishment for drunk driving.
What It Means for Me
Have a plan. If you’re going out, either have a secure and sober ride-share home or rely on a designated driver. Even if you haven’t had a lot, it could still be just enough to put yourself or another car in danger. Further, the monetary fines, jail times, misdemeanors, or license suspensions that come with each state would not be worth the risk.
We are committed to making roads safer by providing reliable, discreet, and easy to use ignition interlocks. If you have any questions regarding ignition interlock requirements or devices, please contact us, and we will be happy to answer your questions!
*Links to any third-party websites herein are provided for your reference and convenience only. Dräger did not create nor develop and does not own, any such third-party websites. Dräger does not endorse nor support the content of, nor any opinions stated in any such third-party website links. Dräger is not responsible for the content of any third-party website or its accuracy or reliability. Nothing contained in this article or in any such third-party website shall be considered legal advice or be deemed to constitute legal advice. For any legal advice concerning a DUI arrest, charge, conviction or consequences thereof, you should contact an attorney of your choice.