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Slam the Gavel Blog

Drunk Driving in Sweden

Posted by Matthew J. Hornsby on February 7, 2013 at 5:50 PM

          Is it possible to use a high tolerance for alcohol as a defense to a drunk driving charge? A defendant in a Swedish criminal court did just that. He apparently is in the habit of drinking "six small snapps" of beer and an additional amount of traditional mulled Swedish wine (called glogg) every day before work. He was eventually pulled over for it and, as you would expect, his blood-alcohol content (BAC) was 5 times the legal limit in Sweden. He was arrested and charged with a form of aggravated drunk driving.


          In his trial, he used as his defense the fact that he was such a heavy drinker that he had developed an extremely high tolerance for alcohol and was therefore not inebriated or impaired. The judge apparently agreed and dismissed the charge against him, setting him free. I wonder if he drank six more small snapps of beer as celebration that night....


          So could a similar defense work in Alabama? The short answer is, probably not. Alabama DUI law sets forth five statutory methods to be charged with DUI, and they are found in Ala. Code section 32-5A-191(a)(1) through (a)(5). The first two deal with alcohol related impairment, while the last three deal with other substances used alone or in conjunction with alcohol. We'll focus on the alcohol-related ones here. (a)(1) prohibits being in physical control of a vehicle with 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in the bloodstream. (a)(2) generically prohibits being in physical control of a vehicle while "under the influence of alcohol." In theory, one could argue to a judge that "six small snapps" of beer and an additional amount of traditional mulled Swedish wine does not cause you to be "under the influence of alcohol" however it may be tougher to get past that per se limit of the 0.08 percent limit found in (a)(1). For the most part, if your BAC is 0.08 or above, it's tough to win your case on the argument of how much you have consumed, and your attorney is better off attacking the procedures the police used leading up to the blood alcohol test.

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