Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and the Law in Washington, DC

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In Washington, DC, if a driver with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 grams or more is found to be operating a motor vehicle, they can be charged Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). DC Code Section 50-2201.05(b) provides that for a first offense, the defendant can be sentenced to a fine of $300 and a maximum of 90 days in jail. If the defendant had a BAC of 0.20 grams or higher, there is a mandatory minimum of five days in jail. If the defendant’s BAC was higher than 0.25 grams, there is an additional 10 days of mandatory jail time.

How your BAC is tested and calculated by the police in Washington, DC

BAC is a measure of how much alcohol is in a person’s blood and is expressed as grams per 100 milliliters of blood. A sober person who is legally safe to drive a vehicle in Washington, DC would have a BAC of 0.00 grams per 100 milliliters of blood.  A person with a BAC reading of between 0.039 and 0.059 would be experiencing symptoms of mild euphoria, joy, loss of inhibitions, and a decrease in concentration according to scientific studies. When a person has a BAC of between 0.06 and 0.09 grams, they should be experiencing blunted reflexes, reasoning problems, depth perception issues, loss of peripheral vision, and problems recovering from glare. This is within the rage where you could be charged with DWI in the District of Columbia.

As the BAC increases, so do the related medical issues. With a BAC of 0.20 to 0.29 grams which is in the range for mandatory jail time under DC law, research shows that you would be experiencing severe motor skills impairment, memory loss, and possible loss of consciousness. If you manage to stay on your feet and keep drinking, and reach a BAC of greater than 0.30 grams, death is quite possible.

The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), US Parks Police, and US Capitol Police have various methods they use to attempt to calculate a driver’s BAC. They may use a breath alcohol testing machine (breathalyzer) such as the Intoxilyzer 5000, or the Intoximeter EC/IR II, blood testing, or urinalysis. They may also use the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) standardized field sobriety tests to estimate your BAC.

Many people charged with a DUI or DWI believe that they BAC score is scientific evidence that cannot be challenged.  This is not true.  All methods of testing may be subject to one or more of the follow errors:

  1. Improper laboratory calibration of breath testing machine
  2. Improper calibration of breathalyzer calibration by police at the MPD station
  3. Equipment error
  4. Operator or procedural error when breath testing or obtaining blood or urine samples
  5. Physiological or biological conditions of the defendant

With all of these potential problems with obtaining an accurate BAC, your Washington, DC DUI defense attorney can work with you to present the best possible case for a not guilty verdict that the facts or evidence will allow.  If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense in the District of Columbia, contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC for a free consultation. Visa, MasterCard, and Discover are accepted.