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Defending High Blood Alcohol Cases


Sometimes there is a disconnect between a defendant's high blood or breath alcohol level and the rest of the evidence in a DUI case. If a defendant has a breath or blood alcohol level of .15% or greater, this is considered a high reading and may lead to additional penalties for a DUI conviction, such as a longer alcohol education class or even jail time.

Most toxicologists would testify that a high breath or blood alcohol level should result in significant mental and physical impairment. One would expect to see a poor driving pattern such as significant weaving, obvious objective symptoms of impairment such as slurred speech and unsteady gait, and poor performance of field sobriety tests.

However, high BAC cases can sometimes be successfully defended if the results of the chemical test seem to be inconsistent with the rest of the evidence. If the defendant was stopped for a minor traffic violation, answered the arresting officer's questions intelligently, performed reasonably well on field sobriety tests and otherwise did not show any significant symptoms of mental or physical impairment, this evidence can be used to cast doubt on the reliability of the blood or breath test results.

An intelligent prosecutor would counter argue that the defendant obviously has a high tolerance for alcohol and was therefore able to mask the amount of alcohol in his system. However, unless the prosecutor has personal knowledge of the defendant, how does he or she know? The alternative reasonable explanation would be that there is a problem with the breath or blood test results.

A jury may find reasonable doubt in these cases even if there is no obvious reason why the breath test or blood test is inaccurate. Often prospective clients ask me “There is nothing you can do for me right, as my breath test is so high?” The lesson for the day is not to jump to conclusions just because the number on the breath machine is high. High blood or breath alcohol cases present challenges for any DUI defense lawyer, but these cases can be successfully defended.