You don’t have to be a defendant in a driving under the influence (DUI) prosecution to have heard the term “BAC.” If you have ever watched a reality television police show or a law enforcement drama, you have undoubtedly heard the term used in reference to a suspect’s level of intoxication. Do you really know, however, what your “Breath Alcohol Concentration,” or “BAC,” means? Do you know how it is determined? Is a chemical test that provides your BAC level after a DUI arrest really as accurate as the police lead you to believe? Because everyone should know the answers to these questions, a Sarpy County DUI attorneys explains what BAC really means.
The Science behind Drinking – How Alcohol Is Processed by your Body
To get started, you need to understand exactly what happens when you consume alcohol. When you take a drink containing alcohol, the alcohol immediately begins to move through your body.
passes down the esophagus through the stomach and into the small intestine. Although a small amount of alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane, the vast majority of alcohol enters the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine. The mouth, stomach, and the lining of the small intestine contain tiny glands that produce juices to help digest food. The liver and the pancreas also produce digestive juices that reach the intestine and help the process of digestion. Alcohol is not digested like other foods. Once alcohol is swallowed, it travels down the esophagus into the stomach and the small intestine. It avoids the normal digestive process and goes right into the bloodstream. About 20 percent of the alcohol consumed is absorbed in the stomach, and about 80 percent is absorbed in the small intestine. After absorption, the alcohol enters the bloodstream and dissolves in the water of the blood. The blood carries the alcohol throughout the body. The alcohol from the blood then enters and dissolves in the water inside each tissue of the body. The alcohol also passes through the lungs which is where the concept of your BAC level again.
Blood alcohol concentration levels, or BAC, is a number typically expressed in a percentage that references the concentration of alcohol within the blood stream. A suspect’s BAC level is obtained using a chemical breath test machine. The machine works by taking a sample of the suspect’s breath from which alcohol can be detected. If the machine does detect alcohol in the breath expelled by the suspect, the machine does some internal calculations and provides the results in the form of a BAC level. If the machine provides a BAC level result of 0.10 percent, for example, it means that for every 1,000 milliliters of blood, the body contains 1 milliliter of alcohol. Over the last few decades, the BAC level required to be considered over the legal limit has moved from 0.10 in many states to 0.08 percent.
Are the Chemical Breath Test Machines Accurate?
If you are arrested for DUI, your BAC level will be determined by a chemical breath test machine. Both law enforcement officers and prosecutors would like everyone to believe that these machines are extremely accurate; however, the truth is that there are a wide number of factors that can cause a breath test machine to provide a faulty BAC level, including:
- Using a machine that has not been properly and/or timely calibrated
- Operator error
- Medication in the suspect’s system
- Physical injury or illness
- When the suspect consumed the alcohol
Any of these factors could have a direct impact on the results of a breath test and provide a result that is not entirely accurate. Because of this, you should never just accept breath test results in a DUI prosecution without stopping to consider if they are accurate.
Contact a Sarpy County DUI Lawyer
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in the State of Nebraska, contact a Sarpy County DUI lawyer at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.