In a drunk driving traffic stop, blood alcohol content is one of the most important pieces of information, as such evidence can be used to either prove that a driver was drunk or defend against a claim of intoxication. Most of a DUI traffic stop is based on initial observations: an officer sees a driver weaving in and out of lanes, driving recklessly or failing to use proper signals, and he or she decides to initiate a stop.
For this reason, any physical evidence that can be collected, like empty beer cans or liquor bottles from the vehicle, or a DNA sample that can be tested for alcohol content, is critical to making a case.
In all 50 states, the legal limit for driving with alcohol in your system is 0.08 percent. Any driver whose blood alcohol content, or BAC, is over this limit is considered too intoxicated to drive. Some drivers, including commercial truck drivers, school bus drivers, and drivers under the age of 21, have lower legal limits for driving and can be considered intoxicated even if they don’t have a blood sample above 0.08 percent.
The use of BAC to determine a person’s level of intoxication is a fairly new development in comparison to when the first laws against drunk driving were passed; so it is still a topic that’s up for debate -- especially among safety boards and administrations looking to improve safety standards and driving requirements.
BAC evidence is not required for a drunk driving conviction, but when it’s available, it plays a large role in how the penalties are determined. In New Jersey, a first drunk driving offense with a BAC between 0.08 percent and 0.10 percent carries a penalty of fines ranging from $250 to $400, and could result in up to 30 days in jail and 90 days of license suspension. For BACs higher than 0.10 percent, the penalties are higher as well, and any second or subsequent offense may be similarly affected.
For the last few years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the legal limit be lowered from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent, citing accident statistics and drunk driving reports. This recommendation has yet to gain significant traction among lawmakers and federal government officials, but it does support an ongoing conversation about how drunk driving should be measured.
Supporters of the NTSB’s recommendation say that safety should be the top priority, and in lowering the legal limit to 0.05 percent, drivers will be even more sober when they get behind the wheel. The lowered limit will also lead to less traffic accidents caused by drunk driving and reduce the number of fatalities and injuries sustained in DUI-related crashes.
However, those against the NTSB’s recommendation say that although safety is a priority, changing from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent may not have much of an impact and will only serve to hassle drivers who are trying to obey the law.
For more information on BAC, drunk driving, and how the state laws may impact your situation, contact a New Jersey DWI attorney at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, today.