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A Sky High Blood Alcohol Content

Posted by Coleen D. St. Clair | May 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

A pilot from JetBlue, an American airliner, has been federally charged with flying while drunk after flying from Orlando to New York with 151 passengers on board. The pilot, Dennis Thomas Murphy, was reported to have his blood alcohol content of .111% after landing at New York's JFK International Airport. He was tested again and achieved a result of .091%. Murphy was also reported to be red in the face, and to have been chewing gum. Murphy attributed his testing results to the gum. This was not Murphy's only flight of the day. Earlier Murphy flew from New York to Orlando, carrying 119 passengers. On this earlier flight, his co-pilot and flight attendants reported that he had been drinking an "unknown beverage" from a cup in the pilot's cabin. Murphy now faces federal charges.

Flying While Drunk

Unlike a typical DUI charge, flying while intoxicated is an entirely separate beast. A large number of pilots in the US fly for airline public transportation. These pilots are entrusted with the lives of their passengers, which can number well above 100. On top of this, a plane crash is several times more destructive, deadly, and expensive than a car crash. For these reasons, pilots are held to a higher standard than the average driver on their way home from the bar. Pilots, such as Murphy, are subject to random alcohol screenings and have a much lower legal limit. The limit set by the Federal Aviation Administration is .04% blood alcohol content. The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of regulation of the nations skies, and the pilots that carry goods and people across them. This means that when a pilot faces charges for flying while intoxicated, they are facing them first at the federal level, instead of just the state level. Some states also choose to have their own laws concerning flying while intoxicated as well.

Murhpy's "Defense"

Murphy claimed that the gum he was chewing caused the breathalyzer to detect alcohol. Unless this particular brand of gum was infused with vodka, Murphy's claims may not hold up in court.

There are still some legitimate reasons as to why a breathalyzer test may give an inaccurate reading. One such reason affects diabetics. Breathalyzers measure certain chemical compound in the breath sample that contains the “methyl group” in their molecular structure. When a person with diabetes is suffering from low blood sugar, the body can enter a state called ketoacidosis, which causes the production of acetones in the breath. A breathalyzer can read significant levels of alcohol on a diabetic's breath, where in fact there may be little or none at all.

In addition to diabetic complications, other health issues, certain diets, and even mouthwash can result in a BAC reading that is inaccurate. With the help of an experienced DUI attorney, there are a number of ways to challenge the results of a breath test.

About the Author

Coleen D. St. Clair

Ms. St. Clair is a former senior prosecuting attorney with over 25 years experience handling criminal cases. She has successfully handled tens of thousands of criminal and DUI cases with remarkable results.


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