Breathalyzer, Blood draw, Or Just Say No?

breathalyzer-blood-draw-implied-consentPicture this: you’ve had a few drinks and you want to head home and go to bed. You don’t feel ‘drunk’ really, so you decide to get behind the wheel of your car and drive yourself home. It’s only when you see the lights flashing at a checkpoint up ahead that you think you might have made a mistake drinking and driving, but you pull up and hope for the best.

When you roll down your window and answer the questions the officer asks, you can tell he suspects you of drinking and driving. Suddenly you panic. What are your choices at this point? You’ve heard breathalyzers are not accurate, and you worry you could blow over .08 even if you’re not over the legal limit.

You could prove you’re sober by requesting a blood test, but you know they take a long time to process and you just want to go home. Maybe you should just refuse everything and hope the police let you leave?

When you’re pulled over for driving under the influence and you’ve been drinking, you don’t really have a lot of choices. If you’re over the legal limit, each decision you make will lead to penalties. You should also take implied consent laws into consideration: in most states, you are required by law to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical test to determine what your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is or whether you have drugs in your system. Because there is no breathalyzer for drugs, if the officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs he or she will ask you to submit to a chemical test.

The penalties for refusing a breathalyzer or blood draw can result in a longer suspension of your drivers license and enhanced penalties if you are found over the legal limit and are convicted of DUI. You will be fined, you will lose your license for one year for a first refusal, and you could be sent to jail if you are convicted of DUI at a later time. If it is your second refusal, you lose your license for two years.

Breathalyzer, blood draw, or just say no to both? Yes, it’s your choice, but before you decline just remember: what happens after you refuse isn’t much better than what happens if you decide to cooperate. If you want to avoid all of these issues there’s only one choice for anyone, and that’s not to drink and drive.

The Antarctica Party Is Over Now That Breath Tests May Be Required

breathalzyer-antarticaHow would spend your free time if you were working in Antarctica? The sub-zero temperatures would mean you couldn’t spend a lot of time outside, and the remote location would take the idea of shopping or hitting up a tourist attraction out of the equation.

That’s why it’s not surprising that a safety audit of released by the National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General has uncovered rampant alcohol consumption by the people who work in these remote locations, and after a task force reviewed what was going on, they’re recommending random alcohol testing using a breathalyzer.

If you work at a research station in Antarctica, there are very strict rules about drinking alcohol. Clearly the cabin fever was getting to them, because when officials visited one lab, they found alcohol stashed in places like the work refrigerator and under desks. Someone had even set up their own brew station right at the workplace.

Officials noted that employees were also exhibiting odd behavior beyond what you’d expect from people at a remote facility. From fighting to indecent exposure, the employees were acting out.

Despite all of the indications something was off, the officials acknowledged that employees were rarely required to submit to a breathalyzer test. All of the signs were there, and alcohol is known to affect judgement, coordination, and impulsive behavior, but breathalyzers were not brought in to determine what was causing the odd behavior.

The people behind the safety audit are recommending a more effective use of breathalyzers at the bases, and they’d like a review of how to legally proceed with mandatory breathalyzer tests for all research participants.

They might have been just trying to stave off boredom in a remote location, but clearly the party is over up in Antarctica now that mandatory breathalyzers could be part of the program.


Breathalyzer Machines Popping Up In Washington

breathalzyers-in-washington-barsIf you’re downtown Seattle and you’re having a few drinks, you might want to take a look around you. More than 100 bars now have breathalyzer machines installed, and although they’re designed to be 95% accurate, there are things to keep in mind if you rely on one to decide whether or not you’ll drive home.

The breathalyzer machines were put into place by a retired construction manager who saw a need for people to self-monitor in Washington bars. Over 100 bars are signed up and have installed the breathalyzers, and so far they’ve seen positive results. One bar owner feels that it’s a good reminder that drinking and driving is dangerous, and he likes that he doesn’t have to remind patrons that they can easily tip over the legal limit because the breathalyzer does it for him.

The machines are pre-calibrated, and although they are 95% accurate, the owner of the machines makes it clear that they are not a substitute for police grade breathalyzers. For a lot of reasons, machines like these should never be used to make a decision on whether or not you’re safe to drive a vehicle either. Here are a few reasons why.

You could blow .07 and feel as though you’re safe to drive

A lot of people think that blowing .08 is the threshold for drinking and driving, but what if you use a in-bar breathalyzer and you blow .07? If you think that makes it OK for you to drink and drive, think again. That level of impairment can affect your reflexes, vision, and coordination in the same way as if you’re over .08.

You alcohol content could increase between the time you blow and the time you drive

It takes two hours to metabolize one drink, so if you have 3 drinks in one hour, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will slowly go up. Imagine if you have a few drinks and blow a .06 on the in-bar breathalyzer at 11:00 pm, then you get behind the wheel at 11:30. Your BAC could be higher than .06 by that point, rendering you legally impaired.

Even one drink can affect your driving skills

For some people, having one drink can affect their driving, so blowing into an in-bar breathalyzer can make them feel confident about getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t be.

The breathalyzers in Washington bars are handy as a talking point, and because the owner donates a portion of the proceeds to charity, their presence also means they are doing good for the community. Just keep in mind if you use them that any amount of alcohol can affect your driving, and it’s best to call a cab or Uber if you plan on drinking.

The Highest Blood Alcohol Concentration Ever Recorded?

Blood alcohol concentrations aren’t just something police measure with a breathalyzer. Yes, your blood alcohol concentration or BAC is used by police when measuring just how intoxicated you were when you made the decision to get behind the wheel of your car, but your BAC is also used by doctors when determining just how drunk you really are.

Because of the reliability of the breathalyzer device, a doctor will usually only take your BAC if you’re brought in by police or via ambulance due to a car crash or if you can’t blow into the breathalyzer.

There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about some people’s level of intoxication, especially considering that there have been documented cases where someone registered a BAC that’s past the lethal level of .40 and they’ve lived to tell the tale. But when it comes to BAC, .40 is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few cases where people are over 1.0 and higher.

1.024 BAC

It was -10 degrees outside in the middle of a chilly Polish winter, but police found a Polish man asleep and half naked out on the streets. When he was given a breathalyzer, he registered a whopping 1.024%. There’s no word on whether he woke up from his chilly sleep, but that’s beyond the lethal BAC of .40.

1.400 BAC

After one Californian woman was found dead, they measured her blood alcohol concentration during her autopsy. It registered as 1.400, and her official cause of death was organ failure.

1.480 BAC

After a car crash that resulted in serious injuries, a Polish man’s BAC was taken and it was 1.480%. That’s the highest BAC ever recorded in known history. Doctors said he survived his brush with death due to drinking, but he later died due to his injuries from the car crash.

How did these people end up with BAC so high? Binge drinking seems to be the culprit, with people consuming mass quantities of alcohol within a small time frame. If you do that, the alcohol can hit you like a ton of bricks, and your BAC can escalate from 0 to lethal in no time at all.

The moral of the story: when you binge drink, it’s all too easy to have a BAC that’s .08 and over. If you’re going to drink, drink in moderation. If you’re going to drive, hand the keys over to someone else.

Is Your Pilot Drunk?

pilot-drunkYou probably think about drunk drivers being behind the wheel of a car, truck, or mini van, but in reality drunk drivers are behind the wheel of almost any type of vehicle. From lawn mowers to boats on the water: it may be illegal to drink and drive on anything motorized, but that doesn’t stop thousands of people from doing it each year.

Unfortunately intoxicated people also get behind the wheel of other vehicles you wouldn’t normally associate with drunk driving. With commercial flight so heavily regulated, you may not consider that your pilot and his flight crew could be drunk, but that’s exactly what happened on a recent flight from Oslo, Norway. The flight with 109 passengers on it was delayed when almost all of the crew members failed breathalyzer tests.

What happens when a pilot fails a breathalyzer? To start, the passengers sit on the tarmac for a long time. Once the captain, first officer, and two flight attendants exited the plane into a waiting police car, the passengers waited 5 hours for a new crew to arrive.

Police were tipped off because of the crews behavior on the plane when the passengers were loading, and when the results of the breathalyzer came back, 4 out of 5 of the crew blew above the legal limit of .02 promille. That’s .02 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and like the USA commercial driver limit, it’s the limit set for pilots, cabin crew, air traffic controllers, and others.

Most airlines have a zero tolerance policy for drinking on the job, and the crew in Norway could see up to two years in prison for the violation.

For some, flying is scary enough, but this is one of those news topics that really makes you wonder whether the pilots manning your airplanes have been sober.

Lock Up And Drive Sober With The Breathalyzer Bike Lock

bike-lock-breathalyzer. Photo from Alcoho-lockDid you know you could be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) on any type of vehicle including all types of transportation from golf carts to bicycles? The police have stopped their fair share of drunk golf cart riders, and now a bike shop in Japan is trying to prevent drunk biking.

Koowho, a specialty bike shop in Japan, is trying to cut down on drunk biking by developing the Alcoho-Lock. It’s a bike lock that attaches to your bicycle and requires that you blow the legal limit before it will unlock. It gets even smarter—because it is connected to your smartphone, your Alcoho-lock will actually contact your friends or family for you, just in case someone wants to come and pick up your bike because you’re too drunk to ride it.

Being drunk and riding a bicycle might not sound like that big of a deal, but the implications of a crash could mean life or death for the bike rider. Imagine if you blew through a stop sign on your bike because you were too drunk to notice one was there. Or if you drove straight into traffic? Not only could you kill yourself, but you could cause a crash that will kill others too.

With a battery life of 40 breathalyzer tests before you have to recharge it, the Alcoho-lock has the potential to be a great two-in-one device to stop you from drunk driving on your bike and keep your bike safe when you’re not riding it. A lot of people are commuters and this may be what they need to stop them from making the decision to get on their bike and trying to ride home, and having to submit to a breath test to ride their bike may even make them think twice about getting behind the wheel of their car and driving home after drinking.

Image from Alcoho-lock.

It’s A Crime To Refuse A Breathalyzer In Minnesota

minnesotaAnyone who has ever been stopped for driving while intoxicated (DWI) will have considered refusing to submit to a breathalyzer. After all, if you refuse to blow into the breathalyzer, there’s no evidence that you were driving drunk, right?

Wrong. If a police officer suspects you of DWI you are required by law to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample upon request. To make matters worse for the DWI offender, a recent court case in Minnesota ruled that if you refuse to take the breath test, you are committing a crime.

The case came about after David Ramsey was arrested after he crashed in 2013. He refused to submit to a breathalyzer when the officer asked him to, and he was later convicted of test refusal. His attorney argued that his conviction should be tossed out because forcing someone to submit to a breathalyzer is considered an unlawful search. The court decided otherwise, and ruled that the breathalyzer is a valid search in Minnesota.

Minnesota is one of many states with an implied consent law. That means one of the conditions of a Minnesota drivers license is that you submit a blood, breath, or urine sample if a police officer arrests you for probably DWI. You also consent to these tests if you’re involved in a crash of any kind, and you agree to submit to a preliminary breath test as well. The preliminary breath test is like a field sobriety test, and it helps an officer establish probable cause of DWI.

For Minnesota drunk drivers, there are no options to get out of a drunk driving charge. With implied consent laws and criminal charges for someone who refuses to submit to one, it’s one state that’s standing up and holding drivers accountable if they make the choice to drink and drive.

Life After A DUI In Georgia

life-after-dui-georgiaGeorgia is one of those places everyone should visit at least once. Whether you’re traveling down Peachtree Street in Atlanta or visiting the beautiful mansions in Savannah, there’s something for everyone to see. The only thing you won’t want to do in Georgia is drink and drive, because that driving under the influence (DUI) conviction could cause you a lot of grief for a long, long time.

Here’s a look at what life is like after a DUI in Georgia

Georgia is a large state, covered in country back roads and busy highways, and you’ll have just as much chance of getting stopped for drinking and driving on either one. Once you see the flashing lights in your rear view window or you encounter a checkpoint, you’re going to want to get ready to submit to a breathalyzer test.

If you’re considering refusing the breathalyzer, think again—Georgia is one of the many states with an implied consent law, and that means if you refuse the breathalyzer, you’ll end up with a fine and a drivers license suspension anyway.

Once you blow over .08 and you’re officially arrested for DUI, you can begin to think ahead to your court date. You’ll have a lot of time on your hands to consider it too, because you’ll spend anywhere from 24 to 48 hours in jail for a first time DUI, and you could spend up to one year in prison.

Fines will range from a minimum of $300 upwards to $1,000, but these fines aren’t going to cover the fees you’ll pay for court costs, drivers license reinstatement fees, and any other expenses you’ll incur like mandatory alcohol/substance abuse driver education programs.

Speaking of drivers license reinstatement fees, you’ll also have time to think about that because one of Georgia’s Administrative penalties is the suspension of your drivers license for one year. You might be able to get it back after 3 months unless your arrest involved drugs. In that case, you’ll have to wait out a 6-month period.

You won’t be required to install an ignition interlock device for a first DUI conviction, but you will if you’re arrested for subsequent DUIs in Georgia. Your DUI conviction will stay on your record for a period of 10 years, so if you ever drink and drive again, the penalties will be swift and harsh.

It doesn’t sound very appealing to get drunk and drive in Georgia, does it? It’s a beautiful state to enjoy while sober behind the wheel, so don’t drink and drive.

Should You Refuse A Breathalyzer?

refuse-breathalyzerDrinking and driving is something that people tend to not worry about until they’re getting stopped at a checkpoint or they’ve been pulled over for suspicion of drinking and driving. If you’ve had one or two drinks, you’ll be spending those first few minutes trying to decide what you’ll do if the officer asks you to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Chances are, he probably will ask you to blow into a breathalyzer, so what happens if you decline his or her request and opt to not give a breath sample? Despite what you can read on the Internet about your right to decline a breathalyzer test, if you’ve been drinking and driving, declining the breathalyzer isn’t going to help you avoid penalties for driving under the influence (DUI).

That’s because most states have something called Implied Consent, and that means just by applying for a drivers license in your state, you agree to submit to a breathalyzer test if you’re asked to take one. If you say no to the test, you’ll be subject to penalties that are, in some cases, almost exactly the same as if you were arrested and convicted for drinking and driving. Take New York for example—if you refuse a breathalyzer in New York state, you’ll lose your drivers license for an entire year. That’s exactly the same as the penalty when you’re arrested for drinking and driving.

It’s against the law to drive under the influence of alcohol in every state, and if you do you’ll receive penalties including possible jail time, drivers license suspension, and the possibility of a having an ignition interlock in every vehicle you drive.

The only way to avoid those penalties is to not drink and drive. You might read somewhere that you have the right to refuse the breathalyzer, but in the long run you’ll end up in the exact same position.

Is This The World’s Smallest Breathalyzer ?

drinkmate-pocket-breathalyzerYou’d have to living off the grid if you hadn’t noticed the deluge of pocket breathalyzers hitting the market over the past year. There’s stand alone breathalyzers that work with their own battery, breathalyzer apps, breathalyzers that plug right into your smartphone, and now after a successful Kickstarter campaign, a new breathalyzer will soon be hitting the market. This one is billed at being the world’s smallest.

DrinkMate is about the size of a USB stick and plugs right into the lightning port of your iPhone. When you blow straight into the device, it takes your blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. Because it doesn’t use a tube, DrinkMate is said to be the only device you can pass around to friends.

Like some other pocket breathalyzers, DrinkMate is based on a social sharing platform. People are able to test their BAC and share the results on Twitter or Facebook, and the DrinkMate app will share your BAC alongside the legal US BAC limit of .08. They’ve even included a rolling timer so you know exactly how long it will be until you’re sober.

Although the developers say the idea behind DrinkMate is to create a social situation where everyone is aware of his or her BAC. If people out together know what their BAC is, the theory is that they’ll make the right choice to not drink and drive. What has yet to be proven is how accurate the DrinkMate is.

DrinkMate’s developers say they calculate BAC differently than a breathalyzer, and their accuracy is + / – 0.01% BAC at a BAC of 0.02%, but the technology behind DrinkMate is not yet known. What is known is that most pocket breathalyzers are not designed to use the same accurate and reliable fuel cell technology that an ignition interlock device or police grade breathalyzer are.

All it takes is one look at DrinkMate’s Kickstarter campaign to see that people are interested in seeing the breathalyzer hit the market, so time will tell how well the tiny device works. But when it comes to all pocket breathalyzers, the best rule of thumb to follow is to use caution, and if you have even one drink, don’t drive.

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