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BAC Physiology

So we know breath-test results in Pennsylvania drunk driving cases cannot be relied upon because the machines themselves are inaccurate. But even assuming accurate testing procedures, the pretense of measuring blood-alcohol levels through breath testing is flawed because it presumes everyone processes alcohol in the same manner. Human physiology does not cooperate.

Pittsburgh DUI defense lawyer, Blaine Jones, has handled cases for more than 10,000 clients. With a significant portion of our practice dedicated to drunk driving defense and protecting the rights of Pennsylvania motorists, we understand the intricacies of building a solid DUI defense on behalf of our clients.

The Intoxilyzer 5000 and other similar breath-testing machines rely upon mathematical formulas to arrive at conclusions. In other words, it's a game of averages. And averages, by their very definition, are not accurate.

Failed Breathalyzer in Pittsburgh: Knowledge and Defense

Alcohols are similar at the molecular levels and produce similar effects – i.e. intoxication when ingested. Only one is meant for consumption, and even it can cause death when consumed in excess. Each alcohol has an oxygen atom and varying numbers of hydrogen and carbon atoms. This ethanol, or ethyl alcohol as ingestible alcohol is known, is a central nervous system depressant and is moved through the body via a process of absorption, distribution and elimination.

  • Absorption: Process of moving alcohol from stomach into the blood. Consumption on an empty stomach speeds absorption. Food in the stomach can slow and even prevent the absorption of alcohol.
  • Distribution: Once absorbed into the system, alcohol is deposited at various locations in the body in accordance with water content. The brain has a fairly high level of water content and so gets a disproportionate amount of alcohol. Muscles also get a fair share of alcohol because of high water content. Fat has little water and so absorbs little alcohol. This also helps explain why alcohol affects women and men differently. Women have less water and higher fat content, which typically results in a woman's BAC climbing higher, faster.
  • Elimination: From the start, the body actively works to eliminate alcohol. This occurs through breath, urine, sweat and metabolism. Most metabolism takes place in the liver. On average, blood-alcohol concentration will be reduced by .015 per hour. Unlike our ability to control consumption, elimination occurs at its own pace.

This has been a very simplified discussion. And yet it's easy to see how complex the interaction is between alcohol and the human body. By reviewing the basics, we can also see how suspect it is that a machine like the Intoxilyzer 5000 purports to measure blood-alcohol content by testing a driver's breath. Knowing nothing else about the driver, the machine is at the mercy of the law of averages - and so is a defendant who lacks qualified legal representation.

Blaine Jones Law, LLC - Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney
Located at 500 Grant Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219. View Map
Phone: (412) 475-0062