Well, first, if you’re under the age of majority for drinking, which is 21, the legal limit for blood alcohol content is .02%. If you’re driving a commercial vehicle, the limit is .04%. And if you’re over the age of majority for drinking, the legal limit for blood alcohol content is .08%. What that means is .0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of your blood, which is here measured by a corresponding amount of alcohol on your breath. This is a scientific formula that really isn’t completely accurate or even all that significant. All you’re really concerned with is when you blow into that machine, which is the Intoxilyzer 8000, is it going to register a reading over that amount?
Now, what’s important to remember is when you provide breath samples after you’ve been arrested for DUI, you’re actually giving two samples into that machine, and it’s trying to calibrate them within a certain range. If both of your breath samples register at over a .08%, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically guilty of DUI. An Intoxilyzer reading isn’t an indictment. What it does do is it creates a rebuttable presumption in favor of the state, so that when they prosecute you, if you proceeded to trial, they can actually start by telling the jury, “You should presume that this person was impaired because of these results.”
Now, obviously, if one or both of your breath readings were below the legal limit, you don’t have that presumption to worry about, and it gives you a little bit more of a fair shot at beating the charge. Like every other criminal charge, you’re still presumed innocent, but it’s more than that. The breath reading of an Intoxilyzer 8000 is just one shred of evidence in what is an overwhelming universe of evidence that can be presented in any DUI case. It’s not a trump card or a smoking gun by any means— just a piece of evidence like any other.
It’s also worth noting that the Intoxilyzer 8000 isn’t a flawless piece of technology. It’s a tool just like any other, and it needs to be maintained and regularly calibrated to be completely accurate— or at least as accurate as it can be. And it’s just as prone to error as any other tool. Namely, it doesn’t differentiate between breath from the lungs and breath from the mouth; if you’ve recently gargled some mouthwash or threw up as a result of the previous act of drinking, your mouth alcohol will be higher than your blood alcohol, and because the Intoxilyzer can’t differentiate, your reading will be inflated. You could get an equally inflated reading if the machine hasn’t been calibrated recently, which is no fault of yours. No one should be penalized for law enforcement not keeping their tools accurate and up-to-date, which is why it’s common to file a motion to review the instrument’s calibration records before proceedings begin. This alone can cripple the state’s case against you if their biggest piece of evidence is thrown out for being inaccurate.
That’s why you should call our office to make sure you understand what your options are and don’t hurriedly accept a plea deal that might not be in your best interest.