Broken Alcohol Cases
There are serious penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol – fines, fees, jail time, probation, drivers license suspension, loss of employment, family problems, negative public perception
But, over the last five years those same penalties have been applied to innocent drivers in Warren County.
A change in the way Warren General Hospital tested blood for alcohol (BAC) starting in 2008 resulted in 30-percent-higher BACs basically overnight.
In some cases, the higher result showed defendants to be intoxicated when they were legally below the BAC limit of .08.
“The worst-case scenario in my mind is, you’re at a birthday party and you have a couple beers,” Greene said. “You figure you’re fine to drive and, legally, you are.”
“An officer pulls you over for failing to use your turn signal,” he said. “They smell alcohol on your breath. You’re nervous. You fail the field sobriety tests.”
Then, the scientific test that should show a blood alcohol content below the legal limit comes back in the intoxicated range. “You lose your license, possibly lose your job,” Greene said. “You are incarcerated.”
Cases in which defendants should not have been ruled guilty are not the only problems with the BAC test interpretations.
There are levels of DUI based on BAC. Some defendants were legally over the limit, but faced more serious charges and were subjected to more serious penalties because their BACs were in higher ranges.
In cases where the test revealed BAC of .16 or higher, defendants faced charges of “DUI – highest rate of alcohol.” Under Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines, “highest rate” is a first degree misdemeanor. A second DUI offense of “highest rate” calls for a sentence of 90 days to five years.
For “high rate” – .10 to less than .16 – a second conviction sentence is much shorter – 30 days to six months.