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Blood Alcohol Content Explained / Drink Weight Index Chart

Once the police make a drunk driving arrest, a test is administered to determine the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If the person refuses to cooperate with the testing process, the police may obtain a search warrant for a blood test. Refusing to take a chemical test offered by the police also can result in sanctions pursuant to Michigan’s Implied Consent Law. Upon being testing, 2 breath or blood samples are always obtained: one for the prosecutor and one for the defendant. The defendant (the accused party) may request the second sample and submit it to an independent lab for testing or verification.

The three most common methods for testing BAC are breath, blood, and urine tests. A blood test is considered the most accurate measurement of a person’s blood alcohol content because it is a direct sample. A breath test is an indirect measurement of a person’s BAC. However, a breath test remains the most utilized method of testing to determine a person’s BAC with respect to a drunk driving cases. The test results obtained by the police are retained and may be admitted as evidence of intoxication at a drunk driving trial.

Alcohol Impairment Chart
Alcohol Absorption and Elimination

There is no formula to determine BAC solely from the number of cocktails consumed. An individual's BAC depends upon numerous factors including gender, weight, metabolism, time frame of consumption/elimination and any consumption of food prior to drinking. The three (3) most important variables to estimate a person’s BAC are: number of drinks consumed, body weight in pounds and the passage of time when alcoholic beverages were consumed.

Absorption: Once alcohol is consumed, a small amount is absorbed by the tongue and lining of the mouth. Once alcohol is in the stomach, it is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the lining of the stomach and small intestine. Once alcohol is in your bloodstream, it is carried to all organs of your body including the brain. The speed of absorption can vary, and the full effects of an alcoholic beverage can occur within 15 minutes to 1 hour of consumption. The process of absorption can be slowed down when food is consumed that acts to absorb alcohol so that it does not enter the bloodstream or the upper portion of the small intestine.

Alcohol Metabolism-Elimination Rate: Alcohol is toxic which is eventually eliminated from the body by the process of metabolism. Nothing will speed up the elimination or detoxication process. The liver is the primary organ responsible for the elimination of alcohol which breaks down alcohol at and reduces BAC by 0.015 per hour. Some alcohol, approximately ten (10%) percent, is eliminated through sweat, breath, and urine. At this rate, a man will lose or eliminate approximately one standard drink per hour.

How Does a Breathalyzer Work?

Following alcohol consumption, the body absorbs alcohol through the stomach lining into the bloodstream. As blood passes through the lungs, some alcohol evaporates and is exhaled through the lungs during the process of breathing. A breathalyzer test measures the percentage of alcohol in a person’s blood which is expelled as vapor from the lungs. The concentration of alcohol in the lungs relates to the concentration present in the blood. This result is then used by the police to support drunk driving or impaired driving charges.

OWI =.08 or Greater, Super Drunk Driving = .17 or Greater

A drunk driving charge can be based upon a BAC test result which indicates a percentage of alcohol at or greater than the legal limit. It is illegal to operate a vehicle while intoxicated anywhere in Michigan with a BAC of .08 or greater. The .08 standard has been adopted almost everywhere in the United States. Proof of actual intoxication is not required if a person has a BAC of .08. When a person’s BAC is .08 or more, it is referred to as a “per se” drunk driving case. In a “per se” OWI case, an individual that registers a BAC of .08 or greater is presumed to be intoxicated in the eyes of the law without any additional evidence of drunkenness. A BAC of .17 or greater will be sufficient to support a charge and conviction of Super Drunk Driving.

Any BAC above .00 Can Constitute Impairment!

As a person’s BAC increases, the degree of intoxication or impairment also rises. A BAC of .08 carries automatic drunk driving charges. However, when a BAC result is lower than .08, a police officer may still proceed with charges of OWI or Impaired Driving if the person registers any amount of alcohol and displays drunken or impaired conduct.

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