Not to be outdone by the wisdom of the Oklahoma Legislature, our braniacs in Austin last year enacted “aggravated” driving while intoxicated provisions similar to the Sooner state, whereby a first time offender now faces a year in jail if the person 1) commits the offense of driving while intoxicated, and 2) “If it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed.” The offense is enhanced from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor.
This is problematic in several respects. First of all, a year punishment range (one day short of the Federal definition of a felony) for a first time, no property damage or injury driving while intoxicated is simply ridiculous. Driving while intoxicated is one of the only offenses above a traffic ticket level that has no mental state. I.e. a person does not have to intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence drive while intoxicated. If you are driving and you are intoxicated (either with a blood alcohol level above .08 or by not being normal due to alcohol or a drug or a combination thereof), you are committing a crime and face the 180 days in jail and $2,000 fine, both of which can be probated for two years. Many good people are arrested for driving while intoxicated for having one drink too many, or because the arresting officer was less competent in his detection skills than he should be.
Now, if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated and cooperate with law enforcement, and the state’s highly unreliable intoxilyzer machine, or a blood test performed by someone who was working at Dairy Queen a few weeks ago, shows a .15 alcohol concentration at the time of the test, not the time of driving, you are punished twice as harshly. Notice, this new law does not require you to be .15 or above at the time of driving, only that your test reveal a .15 or above at the time of testing.
The flaws of alcohol concentration testing are numerous. The difference in breath and body temperature, lung capacity, the temperature and calibration of the machines doing the testing, the competency of the operator doing the testing, and many other factors can cause a falsely high number – a dramatically high false number, on a chemical test.
This legislation is just further reason why you should JUST SAY NO to breath or blood testing at the request of a police officer who is testing you for intoxication. You have little to gain and very much to lose – your license, your freedom, and now double the loss of your freedom if the test is above a .15.