In the state of Oregon, it is illegal to for someone to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.08%. In this way, Oregon is similar to the rest of the states in the U.S. However, Oregon is different from many states in that someone can still be charged, and convicted, of driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) if their BAC is under 0.08%, as well.
Oregon's DUI laws state that a person is driving under the influence if their BAC is at or above 0.08%, or if they are under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, an inhalant, a controlled substance, or any combination of them. This is an important “or” in the law – it allows police to arrest drivers if the officer thinks that the driver was “impaired,” even if a breathalyzer shows the driver has a BAC under the legal limit.
This kind of DUII charge has become surprisingly prevalent – so prevalent that it has its own nickname: A “low blow.” Police officers in Oregon are increasingly allowed to follow through on their hunch that drivers are impaired when they issue DUII citations, instead of abiding strictly by the breathalyzer results. Many have claimed that this is a result of more people taking other drugs, in addition to alcohol, before driving. Other drugs, particularly marijuana, often exacerbate the effect that alcohol has on someone's motor skills, making them much more impaired than they otherwise would be. Additionally, these other drugs do not show up on the results of a breathalyzer, which only measures the alcohol content in a person's blood. With the recent legalization of marijuana in Oregon, the number of people smoking has increased, making the number of people who get pulled over for impaired driving with a low BAC increase, as well.
As a result of these “low blow” arrests, drivers have been charged and convicted of DUII in Oregon with BACs as low as 0.04%.
This is an important fact to remember for those who drive after only drinking a small amount. Just because a driver's BAC is under 0.08% does not mean that he or she cannot be convicted for DUII. If the responding police officer is under the impression that the driver is impaired, the officer can make an arrest, starting the long and stressful criminal process, even if the results of a breathalyzer test show a BAC under the legal limit. The amount of discretion that police officers can have in these situations is surprising: Officers have frequently accused drivers of being impaired by the medications they have been prescribed by their own doctors.
Carini & Francis specializes in the defense of drivers charged with DUII.