Chutzpah Defined: DWI Driver Says .08 Limit Unfair to Alcoholics

alcohol-limit-unfair-claim-chutzpahAt present The Clear Road doesn’t give out an annual Chutzpah Award, but if we did contenders would have a hard time beating Ralph Alfred Friesenhahn, a San Antonio man who has argued before the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas that his four-year DWI sentence should be overturned. The reason: he calls the .08 blood alcohol limit unfair: it discriminates against alcoholics.

The rationale: alcoholics have a higher tolerance for alcohol. They can go about their daily business inconspicuously, having drunk amounts that would render non-alcoholics visibly drunk.

If the argument sounds sketchy, it is.

First of all, Mr. Friesenhahn was arrested after a rollover crash. Even if you accept the idea that .08 was too low for a genuine alcoholic, the fact was he rolled over with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .29 – well over 3 times the legal limit. So he was clearly impaired.

There were also previous drunk driving convictions on his record, all of which contributed to his felony DWI.

The court was not hospitable to the idea that alcoholics were being discriminated against by the law. Everyone must refrain from driving with a BAC of .08 or over, so alcoholics are not being treated differently form anyone else.

Another analogy might be the law against shooting a gun out of your window in public. A sharpshooter might be able to shoot out a window all day and not hit anyone, but that doesn’t mean the law is discriminating against sharpshooters.

Alcoholics need help – counseling, treatment, and of course, ignition interlocks to ensure that they are not able to start their vehicles while intoxicated. But as far as protection goes, it’s the general public – other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians – who need to be protected. And that’s why ignition interlocks, DWI charges and the .08 BAC limit exist. Long may they keep protecting us and saving lives.