U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Relationship Between Blood Alcohol Concentration Level and Court Sanction Severity in Drunk Driving Cases

NCJ Number
H N Tashima
Date Published
75 pages
California Assembly Bill (AB) 144 requires the court to consider a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .20 percent or more as a special factor enhancing penalties in the sentencing of drunk drivers.
This interim report examines tabulations of sanction severity by BAC level for driving-under-the-influence (DUI) first offenders and by license status (valid or invalid) for 144 subjects convicted before enactment of AB 144 (December 1984 and January 1985) and 144 subjects convicted in the same months following enactment. Only DUI offenders with reported BAC levels were selected for analysis -- information available only for 41 percent of DUI offenders. In both periods, a greater proportion of those with high BAC received jail sanctions relative to those with low BAC, and this difference was more marked following enactment of AB 144. There were slightly fewer court-ordered suspensions, greater use of a first-offender program plus jail sanction, and an increase in the length of jail terms for both BAC levels in the post-AB 144 period. Overall, preliminary results indicate that high BAC offenders have tended to receive enhanced sanctions and that this trend increased following enactment of AB 144. The text of AB 144 and additional data are appended. 4 tables and 2 references.