Short for blood alcohol content, BAC is a measure of the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream. When your BAC reaches a certain threshold, it becomes illegal to operate a motor vehicle. In Indiana, that threshold is 0.08% or higher.
Despite this simplistic answer, there is a lot to remember about BAC, including situations where you can still be arrested for a DUI even if your BAC is zero. If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI, contact Mark Worthley of Worthley Law. As a DUI lawyer in Valparaiso, he offers free, no-obligation consultations.
Blood Alcohol Content Limits in Indiana
All 50 states (Utah excepted) cap the blood alcohol concentration at 0.08%. A BAC that meets or exceeds that number is considered too impaired to drive safely and legally.
Drivers who far exceed a 0.08% BAC may be subjected to harsher penalties, including jail time, due to the causal connection between very high BACs and the instances of fatal accidents. These stricter penalties are meant to serve as a deterrent, prompting drivers to limit their drinking or find safer, alternative means of transportation, such as a ridesharing service. The inconvenience and expense of finding alternative transport while impaired is preferrable to paying hefty fines and spending days in jail.
Special Circumstances for BAC Levels
Even though the legal limit for blood alcohol content in Indiana is 0.08%, you could still be arrested for a DUI even if you are below this limit.
The following circumstances trigger a zero-tolerance policy when an officer observes that a driver is “noticeably impaired”:
– You are under the age of 21 (the legal age by which you can drink alcohol); or
– You are driving with children in the vehicle
Theoretically, under this policy, you could have a BAC of 0.0% and still be arrested on suspicion of a DUI.
BAC Levels Explained
A fraction of a percent of alcohol in the bloodstream might seem insignificant, but it helps to put things into perspective.
Alcohol interferes with how the brain communicates with the nervous system, acting as a depressant. In plain English, it slows down the brain. Even small amounts of the liquid can affect speech, movement, reflexes, memory, and even judgment.
Though every person metabolizes alcohol differently, on average, here’s what you can expect at various BAC levels:
- – 0.02%: For the average person, someone will reach a BAC of 0.02% after one drink. A single drink can begin affecting one’s mood, and potentially judgment, by “taking the edge off.”
– 0.05%: After a couple of drinks, speech and behavior may become noticeably “unfiltered,” as inhibitions begin to relax, and the nervous system becomes impaired.
– 0.08%: At this point, someone has had anywhere from three to five drinks. Perception, reaction times, and coordination are significantly hindered. It is at this point that operating a vehicle becomes illegal in Indiana.
– 0.15%: The impairment here is very significant. Someone with a BAC of 0.15% is likely to have difficulty walking and controlling impulses.
– 0.16% – 0.20%: Dizziness and vomiting can occur at this BAC level. The person may feel confused or disoriented as well.
– 0.21% – 0.30%: A total inability to walk or stand on one’s own is expected in this BAC range. Blackouts, zero pain sensation, and vomiting are also common.
– 0.31% – 0.40%: This BAC range is reaching dangerous territory. Often, the person will lose consciousness. Coma and death are also possibilities.
What Affects BAC Concentrations
Every person is unique, and we all process alcohol differently. While one person can become noticeably impaired after a single drink, another person may be able to stomach more alcohol before their BAC levels rise to illegal limits.
There are several factors that influence BAC levels, including:
- Whether you consumed food
- Hydration levels
- Type of drink you consumed (beer, wine, cocktails, shots, etc.)
- Body type and composition
- How quickly you drink
- Emotional state / frame of mind
- Individual alcohol tolerance
- Medications (both prescription and over-the-counter)
- Overall health
On average, one can metabolize one drink per hour, but there are other variables to consider, including the list above.
BAC Self-Assessment Traps
There are commercially available breath tests available that can give you an idea of what your BAC level is. As a general rule, it’s recommended to abstain from driving, even if you’ve only had one drink. Often, drunk drivers get into trouble when they try to estimate whether they are “drunk” based on various self-assessments.
- The Subjective Test: A subjective test is a form of self-assessment where you measure your own BAC based on how you feel. The problem with this approach is that alcohol affects and impairs judgment. The more you drink, the more sober you might think you are.
- The One Drink Per Hour Rule: The rule that the body can metabolize one drink per hour is often used to justify nursing beverages throughout the evening and then getting behind the wheel. The common thinking is that if you can fully metabolize an alcoholic beverage once per hour, you can theoretically drink once per hour all evening long.The error in this way of thinking is that it doesn’t account for the strength of the beverage or other individualized factors. For example, a 200-pound male drinking one beer per hour (with an ABV of 4.2%) will have a different BAC than a 120-pound female who drank a Long Island Iced Tea (with an ABV of 12%).
- BAC Charts and Calculators: There are charts, calculators, and conversion tables for everything these days, often in an app or accessible through a Google search. These charts and calculators use generic, one-size-fits-all formulas to estimate what your BAC level is after various drinks.Though the formulas often consider your age, gender, drinking timeframes, and the type of drink you consumed, the formula doesn’t account for a myriad of other factors. For example, what if a bartender is more heavy-handed than the formula accounts for? In a situation like this, the BAC calculation would be inaccurate.
Can You Refuse a BAC Test in Indiana?
It can be tempting to tell an officer that you do not consent to a BAC test in hopes of preventing the police from gathering evidence that can be used against you.
Indiana, however, follows an “implied consent” standard, which means that by obtaining a driver’s license, you consent to have your blood alcohol content (or any other substance concentration) tested as long as an officer has probable cause. Therefore, if you have a driver’s license in Indiana, you have given consent for a BAC test.
If you refuse a BAC test, you will be subject to having your driving privilege revoked for one year. That timeframe extends to two years if you have a prior DUI conviction.
Get Legal Help for a DUI Charge in Indiana
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, don’t hesitate to seek experienced legal counsel. DUI attorney Mark Worthley of Worthley Law has more than 14 years of experience representing drivers in Valparaiso and throughout Indiana. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us at (219) 575-8565. You can also schedule a consultation by filling out our online form.