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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

A Cop Walks Into a Bar With a Breathalyzer

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Aug 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

If you're out at a bar with your friends, enjoying the conversation with a couple of drinks, seeing a police officer approach your table may kill your buzz pretty fast. Police departments across California are adopting a new program that brings police officers into bars and entertainment districts. The purpose is not to arrest patrons who have been drinking, but to show them that their blood alcohol content (BAC) may be higher than they realize.

The program has been called “Know Your Limits,” and involves police officers going into bars, or standing outside waiting for people to come out, and ask for volunteers who will have their breath tested. If someone agrees, the police may ask what they think their BAC will be, then gives them a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) breath test. Often times, the test results are higher than the initial guess. This is the intended point of the program, to show people that they may be over the limit without knowing it.

Rather than acting wary of the police inside bars, many people are intrigued. Groups of people may even form, waiting for a chance to guess their BAC, or watch to see how their friends fare. The volunteers are not arrested if they test over the limit, and may be given a card with DUI laws and penalties, or even a voucher for a ride-sharing service. The police officers may get the chance to interact with a 100 or so people a night, and hope that the message is getting through that a DUI carries some serious repercussions.

Know Your Limit started in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2009, as a pilot program. Since that time, teams of police have begun a monthly campaign of taking their message to the streets. Officer Anthony Bellissimo explained, “We want people to understand where their bodies are at when they've had even just one drink.”

The Folsom Police Department had their first Know Your Limits detail this summer. Lt. Mark Schanrock said it was “a big hit with the patrons and bar staff.” “The program is not intended as a scare tactic. Instead it's designed to provide an educational opportunity within the Folsom community to encourage groups to designate a sober driver and make good choices,” said Schanrock. They now intend to keep the program as a year-round operation.

In Laguna Beach, the police administered over 70 breathalyzer tests to volunteer bar patrons in one night. Officers said that the key to reducing DUI fatalities was more than just strict enforcement of the law. Raising the public's awareness about drunk driving, including how alcohol affects a driver's BAC, is an important part of the effort.

When Huntington Beach Police began their Know Your Limits educational detail last year, they even handed out a sticker for the local bar patron, reading “I Know My Limits.” Others departments are handing out info cards or Uber vouchers.

Police across California have now been adopting their own version of the program. Law enforcement departments including Folsom, Sacramento, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Riverside have experimented with Know Your Limits operations, and the practice appears to be spreading. Don't be surprised if you see police departments here in the East Bay approaching you on a Saturday night asking if you want to take a breathalyzer test.

When the police pull you over and arrest you for driving under the influence, you won't be a voucher for a free ride home, you'll get a ride to jail. But just because you were arrested does not mean you have to be convicted. At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing DUI charges in the East Bay. With over 30 years of DUI experience, Lynn Gorelick understands what it means to fight for you. Contact the local East Bay criminal defense attorney who will stand up for your rights.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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