The Science of DUI's
In Florida, one can be found guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) if they:
- Are in actual physical control of the vehicle;
- Under the influence of alcohol or any chemical substance to the extent their normal faculties are impaired;
- Have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood;
- Have a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
This is all according to F.S. 316.193. Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm are closely familiar with the statutory requirements of the offense. We understand that science is often as critical to proving this offense as officer observations.
While the statute does not require a breath or blood or urine test to prove guilt in a Florida DUI case, such evidence can be powerful and is often central. That’s why we often work with expert witnesses to counter the science-based testimony of police officers, lab technicians and others.
The concentration of alcohol or chemical substances within one’s body is used to establish the level of intoxication, which is essential to conviction. Knowing the science of how alcohol moves through the body and how alcohol testing works may be key to your defense. Effective attack on the testing process and/ or validity of results, and your case is stronger.Understanding Body Alcohol Concentration
When alcohol is consumed, it enters through the stomach, it is absorbed into the blood stream. As noted by researchers at Brown University, about 20 percent of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and 80 percent through the small intestine. It metabolizes in the liver, which processes roughly one ounce/ drink per hour.
It is well established (see study in Journal of Studies on Alcohol) that higher levels of blood-alcohol concentration can impair one’s thinking, concentration, vision, balance and motor skills. The problem with a per se limit, however, is that absorption rates is that it is dependent on so many factors that are not accounted for in the testing. These include a person’s:
- Food in the stomach;
- Medical conditions;
- How long after last drink test is taken.
Our defense attorneys will look carefully at how these factors may have played a role in one’s BAC, in some cases falsely exaggerating the effects.
For instance, the “rising BAC defense” asserts you were not drunk while you were driving, even though you were drunk when police administered the chemical test. This occurs because alcohol absorption does not occur immediately. A driver could become drunker after they have stop drinking. This is important, especially in cases where the BAC is hovers right around that 0.08 mark. Driving with a BAC of 0.06 or 0.07 isn’t illegal, unless you show signs of impairment. If there is a possibility your BAC rose between the time you were stopped and the time you took the test, this could be a solid defense.Issues With Intoxilyzer 8000
The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the primary instrument used to analyze the alcohol concentration of a breath sample after Florida DUI arrests. Results from this test are usually admissible in court as evidence defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of arrest. Any driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is presumed to have been too impaired to operate a motor vehicle.
Because of Florida’s implied consent law, F.S. 316.1932, motorists are required to undergo this testing after arrest or face an automatic one-year license suspension.
As noted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the device uses infrared spectroscopy to make this analysis, producing an infrared light into the breath sample several times per second.
However, this device is not without its flaws, particularly when it comes to maintenance and calibration. The devices are required to be routinely inspected and certified to ensure they are in proper working order. In some cases, agencies fail to conduct proper calibration, or fail to keep accurate records. This failure could result in a successful motion to suppress the breathalyzer evidence.
Another issue is lack of proper training by the officer conducting the test. Improper testing methods or failure to include a 20-minute observation period can skew the results and possibly render them scientifically invalid.
Some questions we may ask in trial are:
- Was the breathalyzer machine properly registered and approved by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement?
- Is prosecution able to prove via records the Intoxilyzer 8000 was properly calibrated the same month the test was taken?
- Can prosecutors offer documentary proof the machine was calibrated annually?
- Was there an adequate breath sample (minimum 1.1 liters) to accurately measure the breath sample?
Blood-alcohol tests are considered more reliable than breath alcohol tests, but that doesn’t mean they are infallible.
The first thing we will examine is whether the blood draw was legal. This isn’t a scientific argument, but it’s nonetheless proven effective in some DUI cases. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2013 case of Missouri v. McNeely that blood tests require a warrant except where exigent circumstances exist – and the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood doesn’t constitute an exigent circumstance in every case. If the blood draw was non-consensual and there was no warrant, this element requires scrutiny.
Secondly, we will want to examine the chain of custody of the blood sample. Authorities are required to keep records as to where the sample is. If there are gaps in the record of who had control over the sample at any given time, this could open the door to an argument that tampering was possible.
Finally, we may examine the qualifications or track record of the person conducting the draw and/ or the lab technician tasked with analysis of the sample. You may recall the widely-publicized case of the former Massachusetts crime lab chemist who confessed to falsifying evidence in more than 30,000 criminal cases. Thousands of DUI and other criminal cases had to be dropped.
If you are arrested for DUI in Fort Lauderdale and chemical tests are central to the case against you, our defense attorneys may have several legal strategies that could help.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Fort Lauderdale, call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.