Wednesday, June 17, 2009

People v. Dillon (Cal. Ct. App. - June 16, 2009)

Check me on this one. Annette B. is a victim of sexual assault in San Francisco on New Year's Eve of 2005. She's recently done a little coke, and has been drinking. She gets sexually assaulted by a stranger in the street, and his defense is consent. So, of course, we have to impeach the defendant. Par for the course.

Here's what I don't understand. Annette is 19 years old and tiny -- 5'1" tall, 90 pounds. They do a urine test after the assault and her blood alcohol content is 0.17 percent. (It's New Years Eve, after all; ignore the coke for now, or that she's underage.)

Here's my question: To get to .17 percent for a 90 pound woman, how many drinks are we talking about? Assume standard sizes: a can of beer, a class of table wine, a shot of 80 proof alcohol, etc. And assume for simplicity purposes it's all at once; no "over a half day" or "six hours" or anything like that (the evidence here suggests a pretty small time frame). How many drinks gets a 90 pound woman to 0.17?

Here's what the defense expert testifies at trial: It'd take between 8 and 9 drinks to get to that point.

Are you insane? That many drinks and, personally, I'm out -- way over 0.17. And I'm nearly tipping the 200 mark, and a guy at that. Have you ever seen a 90 pound woman drink 8 or 9 drinks? I have. And it darn sure ain't no .017.

So I looked it up. On the most trusted source on the planet: Wikipedia. Which says that for a 90 pound woman, 8 drinks puts you at 0.40, and 9 drinks puts you at .45. Basically: Dead.

Even if you spread those drinks over three or four hours, you're still looking at between 0.35 and 0.40. At which point you're definitely not walking, or doing any of the other things that Annette's clearly doing at the time. Which makes me think: Who the heck are these "experts" that testify that her BAC of 0.17 means 8 or 9 drinks?

None of this is central to the case. But still, it definitely made me wonder. Because if I learned anything from my four years at Dartmouth it was the impact of alcohol on the body. So if I'm way off on this one, and can let a 90 pound woman pound 8 or 9 drinks and only reach a 0.17, please let me know. 'Cause that ain't what I was taught. At all.