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Myth or Fact: What You Should Know About DUIs

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By NTL member Barbara Bowden

Myth: You can’t be charged with a DUI if your BAC is <.08

The legal limit for DUI is .08. If your breath or blood alcohol level is .08 or above, you will be arrested for DUI. However, if you blow under a .08, you can still be arrested for DUI. The prosecutor will proceed with the DUI charge under the “affected by” prong of the statute. According to RCW 46.61.5055, even if your BAC is under the legal limit, you can still be convicted of a DUI if it can be proven that your driving is affected to an appreciable degree. The prosecutor will attempt to prove the DUI using issues with driving as well as physical indicators of impairment such as slurred speech, flushed face, bloodshot- watery eyes and problems with coordination.

  • Fact: If you refuse the field sobriety test your license will be suspended

    Washington state law requires that you take a blood or breath test if you are arrested for DUI. This is a result of the implied consent law in Washington. It states that any person who operates a motor vehicle in the state of Washington is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests of that person’s breath or blood for purposes of determining alcohol concentration or the presence of any drug.

    Myth: If you drink one drink an hour, you will keep your BAC under .08

    Alcohol is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and into the bloodstream. The alcohol is distributed throughout the body until equilibrium is achieved (even distribution throughout the body). Healthy people metabolize alcohol at a fairly constant rate. In general, a person will eliminate one average drink of alcohol per hour. There are many charts and graphs that try to predict what a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will be after a certain number of drinks per hour. This calculation is based on many variables. While a chart can be used as a general guideline, it can’t predict a person’s blood alcohol content with absolute certainty. Many factors are involved including weight and absorption rate. For example, the less you weigh, the more you will be affected by a given amount of alcohol. Furthermore, food taken with alcohol causes a delay of alcohol absorption resulting in a decrease of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream.

Fact: You can be arrested if you are in a car with the engine off

If you are impaired and have physical control of a vehicle, you can be charged with the crime of Physical Control. Being in physical control of the vehicle means that you have the ability to start and operate the vehicle. You don’t have to be in the driver’s seat or even sitting in the car. So if you have been drinking and decide to sleep it off in the backseat of the car and the keys are in the ignition or in your pocket, you can be charged with physical control. This type of charge has the exact same consequences as a DUI.

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