Do I Have to Blow a Breathalyzer When Stopped for DUI?

“Blow.” These are the words you hear as a police officer is standing beside you after a long night out. You were stopped and now being asked to perform a breathalyzer test. You do not want to submit, but the situation makes you feel like you don’t have a choice. In South Carolina, you do not have to take a breathalyzer, however, if you refuse your license will automatically be suspended for at least six months.

How Does the Breathalyzer Work?

When you conduct a breathalyzer test, the machine is calculating your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A person’s BAC is the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood expressed as weight of alcohol per unit of volume of blood. Essentially, it measures the alcohol in our system based on your weight.
Depending on how much is in your system, alcohol may cause inability to control your body, delay response times, impair eyesight, and cause poor decision making. A person’s blood alcohol level per drink will vary person to person. Think of it this way, a 5’0, 115 pound female and a 6’2, 185 male consume the same amount of alcohol throughout the night. Because the alcohol is more concentrated in the female’s body and she is significantly smaller than the male, her BAC will be higher.
Size is not the only factor when measuring a person’s BAC, though. Other factors such as drinking on an empty stomach, body fat, age, liver health, sex, medications, alcohol tolerance, and the strength of the drinks you consume all come into play.

Blow or Not?

So, if you do choose to blow, here are some things to keep in mind:
• A person who blows in a breathalyzer and receives .08% or higher BAC will be considered legally impaired and under the influence.
• BACs can be measured within 30 to 70 minutes of drinking.
• A person’s BAC can easily rise drastically but lowering it may prove to be a bit harder.
• No shower, sleeping, drinking water, or consuming caffeine will make you “sober up.”
• Only time will make a person’s BAC go down. On average, your BAC will drop .015% per hour. So, depending on how much a person drinks, it will take more or less time to have a BAC of 0%.

What happens if you blow lower than a .08%? Well, that depends. If you blow a .05% BAC but you are constantly stumbling, with bloodshot eyes, and throwing up it can be inferred that you are under the influence. If you are driving, then you may still be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Even if a person does not blow a .08% BAC, they can still face criminal charges.
This article is geared towards a general overview of breathalyzers. Each case is fact specific and has its own set of challenges. If you need help navigating your way through a case please contact the attorneys at Henderson & Henderson.

Note that this is distinct from my law practice. If you are searching for personalized legal advice for your business in South Carolina, please contact me, Wesley Henderson, directly at wesley@hhlawsc.com or check out our firm’s website for more information.

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