With all of the information sharing we do about police breathalyzers and ignition interlock devices, it may come as a shock to many that blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is not the only factor in a DUI or drunk driving arrest and conviction. BAC is the measurement taken by those devices, and there is a legal BAC limit for drunk driving in all 50 states (.08 percent, except in Utah, where the BAC limit was just lowered to .05 percent). However, if you are driving dangerously and have any amount of alcohol or any other substance in your system, you will likely still be arrested for, and possibly convicted of a DUI, without a BAC test at all.
Back before a BAC test was a thing, police relied on field sobriety testing and their well-trained observation skills.
Breathalyzers and BAC test technology has been around for almost a century, but it was not until more recent developments occurred that the devices were considered virtually foolproof. That meant law enforcement was the ultimate BAC test, and that if you acted intoxicated, smelled of alcohol, and were a danger on the road, you would be charged with a DUI. From there, it was literally your word against the police officer’s testimony.
Today, that testimony still matters, especially when it comes to a DUI that involves alcohol levels that are under the legal limit. For instance, a buzzed driver at .05 percent BAC (legally intoxicated in Utah) can still be just as dangerous as a driver at .08 percent BAC. Also, those who are driving under the influence of certain medications will not have a measurable BAC, or those who combined alcohol and medications may be at a very low BAC, far from the legal limit.
A BAC test and its results are important for any DUI or drunk driving incident, but even without the test, you could still be in big trouble. Perhaps the biggest test you face is not one that measures your BAC, but how you’ll plan to stay out of DUI trouble before you even leave your house.