Driving while under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common charges that people think of when they imagine why a police officer may have pulled someone over. Typically, a police officer will be on the lookout for signs of impairment such as the inability to remain in one lane, irregular movements or sudden starts and stops.
Once an individual has been pulled over, they may be asked to complete tests that quantify the amount of alcohol in their system; this is where the “per se” rule comes into effect. In order to understand the full scope of how a DUI charge may become a conviction, it is important to know the meaning, and impact, of “per se BAC”.
Calculating BAC During A DUI Investigation
After an officer initiates a stop for an individual suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol, the officer typically attempts to have the person perform field sobriety tests and a portable roadside breath test. Alternatively, if the person has been arrested and brought to a magistrate or police station, or if they refuse the roadside test, an individual may be required to complete a breathalyzer at the arrived location.
In either of these cases, the machinery will examine the contents of the suspect’s breath to determine what percentage of alcohol has been absorbed into their bloodstream. This number is the blood alcohol content, also known as the BAC, and can be parsed from breath tests or blood tests, depending upon the circumstances.
The legal driving limit for blood alcohol content is .08; the higher your blood alcohol beyond this number, the more severe the consequences of a conviction tend to be. Many states have additional cutoff points at .15 and .20 which could lead to loss of your driver’s license or other severe penalties.
The Meaning Of “Per Se” And How It Affects You
In Latin, the term “per se” means “by itself”; in the context of driving while under the influence, per se means that a blood alcohol level of .08 “by itself” is enough to convict you of drunk driving. This is regardless of whether or not you were behaving in an impaired manner while driving. While many officers will make an initial stop based on the driver’s irregular behavior, per se makes cases based on the suspect’s blood alcohol being at or above .08. This results in an automatic verdict of guilt.
Per se means that if you were arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol and your blood alcohol content was .08 or greater, you have less flexibility in fighting the charge and reducing the penalties. However, an attorney can improve your chances to keep any consequences to a minimum. In addition to the .08 limit, the court will take into consideration your behavior, circumstantial evidence such as swerving, failure to pass a field sobriety test or aggressive behavior which can add further charges to your case.
Getting A DUI While Under Per Se Limits
It is possible to be charged with a DUI while still under the per se limit of .08 blood alcohol content; the .08 limit in and of itself is not the only requirement. As with any other DUI, an officer will examine your behavior on the road to determine if you are intoxicated. Falling asleep at the wheel, failing to adequately brake or stop and other irregular behavior can still be considered as evidence against you when considering a DUI charge.
This means that you may still be convicted even if your blood alcohol content is less than .08. If you refuse the breathalyzer test at the police station, in hopes of avoiding a .08 reading by rejecting testing, you may be charged with a refusal. If you elect to refuse the roadside test, it is generally in your best interest to comply with the officers at the station for a breathalyzer and then reach out to an attorney for assistance if you are charged with DUI.
Reach Out For Legal Assistance If You Have Been Charged With A DUI
If you have been subject to per se rule, or for any reason charged with a DUI, you may have an opportunity to reduce the potential consequences of a conviction. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to discuss the details of your case and help you explore your options. Reach out to schedule a consultation to examine the potential outcomes and devise a strategy to help you get back to your regular routine after a DUI charge.