DWI Suspect's BAC Too High for Breathalyzer: Cops

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Iowa man was arrested on suspicion of a DWI, but his actual BAC was apparently too high for the Breathalyzer.

Levi Carter, 28, of Iowa City, allegedly registered a 0.467 percent blood-alcohol concentration, more than five times the legal limit in Iowa; in fact, a BAC of over 0.4 percent can be lethal in some cases. When Carter tried again, the Breathalyzer's display simply said "HI," according to The Huffington Post.

So how did Carter get arrested if police don't know his exact BAC?

Enough Probable Cause Without a Breathalyzer?

While getting a reading that's too high for a Breathalyzer sounds like a sure way to get a DWI, it's not how Carter got arrested. Police need probable cause to arrest someone. To get probable cause, police need enough factual evidence to prove that a person has committed the crime.

In Carter's case, he allegedly drove 55 mph in a 25 mph zone before crashing his car on his way home. A passenger in his car suspected Carter was too drunk to drive and called police. When police arrived at Carter's home, they claim he could barely stand up and couldn't even complete a field sobriety test, the Des Moines Register reports. Based on the officer's experience, those factors combined were likely enough to be considered probable cause for an arrest.

Police arrested Carter for operating a vehicle while intoxicated based on the interaction at his home. However, Carter may have some legal defenses he can potentially raise in court.

Breathalyzers Can Be Challenged

Although it's incredibly stupid to drink and drive, good DUI/DWI defense lawyers will have a few defensive tricks up their sleeves. For example, one legal defense that's sometimes used is that the Breathalyzer machine was improperly calibrated, or not calibrated at all. Non-calibrated breath-test machines can raise questions about the accuracy of test results.

In Carter's case, he blew into the Breathalyzer twice, with varying readings -- one that was wildly high and another that the machine couldn't even quantify. Carter could try to use the inconsistency to counter the breath-test readings, if they're introduced in court.

But considering the wrecked car, the witness' tip, and the officer's observations, it seems Carter faces an uphill battle in fighting his DWI charge.

Perhaps surprisingly, Carter's 0.467 percent Breathalyzer reading was not the highest that local officers have encountered. One man somehow registered a 0.627 percent BAC in 2012, Cedar Rapids' KCRG-TV reports.

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