We have previously discussed the topic of gastric bypass surgery and DWI and how this surgery could impact how an individual processes alcohol in their body. Well, now comes another story about how issues associated with your weight could impact your BAC or blood alcohol concentration level.
A few years ago a man in New Hampshire successfully had his DUI conviction tossed out of court by a judge who agreed that his obesity unfairly played a roll in his being arrested.
In that 2009 case, Jaimil Choudhry was arrested after failing a field sobriety test. Choudhry was convicted of drunk driving, but his attorney successfully appealed the conviction claiming that Choudhry’s weight led to the failure of the field sobriety test. At 5’10 and 230 pounds, Choudhry’s BMI was technically obese. His attorney argued that Choudhry was not able to properly perform one of the field sobriety tests that required balancing on one foot. The judge agreed and reversed his conviction in place of a lesser charge. The judge said that the arresting officer made an error when she ordered Choudhry to perform two standard field sobriety tests that require an individual balance himself.
The 2009 case is not the only instance of a person successfully arguing their weight impacted their DUI conviction. A few years before that case a man from Illinois successfully claimed that he weighed too much to accurately perform field sobriety tests. The judge overseeing his case agreed that there was reasonable doubt which prevented a conviction.
Though these cases deal with the effectiveness of a field sobriety test due to obesity, a person’s weight has also been found to impact the blood alcohol concentration of a driver. This is a simple matter of biology which says that alcohol loves water and will move into spaces in the body where water is located. Fatty cells in a person’s body have very little water content and thus absorb very little alcohol, while muscular cells in a person’s body have high water content and thus absorb substantially more alcohol.
It is because of this that the fatter the person, the more alcohol will remain unabsorbed in their bloodstream and thus the higher their resulting BAC will be. The more muscular a person is the more alcohol will be absorbed by their body and the less will be in their bloodstream which results in a lower BAC. This means that the higher a person’s body fat percentage is the more alcohol they will likely have in their bloodstreams relative to a person with lean muscle. Thus, a short fat person will reach a higher BAC than a tall thin person when both drink the same amount of alcohol.
Is this fair? Certainly not. The issue showcases exactly what is wrong with the current one-size-fits-all approach to drunk driving calculations. Rather than recognize that each person is impacted differently by the consumption of alcohol, rigid rules that come up with a fixed percentage fail to take into account physiological differences between people. While a short overweight person and a tall lean person could consume the same amount of alcohol, one would have a higher BAC potentially leading to a DUI conviction while the other goes free.
Source: “Too Fat for Field Sobriety Test?,” by Anne-Marie Dorning, published at ABCNews.com.