Court resets drunk driving threshold

Judges rule that threshold for "breathalyzer" test be lowered from 400 to 290 mg of alcohol per liter.

October 15, 2010 04:12
1 minute read.
alcohol beer and more 248.88

alcohol beer and more 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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In a dramatic ruling, the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday overturned a lower court decision that had increased the threshold for determining who was a drunk driver by 50 percent.

The judges – Noam Solberg, Yigal Marzel and David Mintz – ruled that the threshold for the “breathalyzer” test, which police use to determine the blood alcohol content of suspected drunk drivers, would be lowered to 290 milligrams of alcohol per liter. Under the lower court decision, the threshold had been set at 400 mg. per liter.

According to the law, the amount at which a driver is considered drunk is 240 mg. The police, however, had taken a safety margin into account and set the minimum level at 255 mg. in case of errors in the precise measurement. Until the lower court ruling, the police had issued fines and indictments only at the 255 mg. mark and later increased the threshold to 260 mg.

However, on March 7, the Jerusalem Traffic Court ruled in the case of Einat Ozri – a woman arrested for drunk driving – that the breathalyzer was inaccurate and that the safety margin applied by police was far too low. The court raised the threshold to 400 mg.

The decision triggered a storm of protest from the state prosecution, which argued that the decision would allow motorists who were unquestionably drunk to continue driving on the roads without punishment.

Attorney Ronen Yitzhak, senior assistant to the Jerusalem district attorney, told The Jerusalem Post after the state’s appeal was accepted that there were 10,000 drivers who had been caught in the past seven months with blood alcohol contents of 290-400 mg., whose cases were waiting for the outcome of the appeal.

“Now,” he said, “most of these drivers will be brought to trial and punished.”

The minimum sentence is two years in jail.

Yitzhak added that scientific experts had told the law enforcement authorities that if one wanted to take every possible safety margin into account, the threshold should not exceed 290 mg.

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