New Braunfels lawyer: 0.08 drunken driving limit discriminates against alcoholics

Local case appeal drawing attention, backlash

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - A New Braunfels attorney's DWI case is leading to the first appeal of its kind. Some call it dangerous and bizarre, but she calls it innovative and life-changing for a certain population. 

Lawyer Gina Jones believes the state's legal limit on drunken driving discriminates against alcoholics.

Her client, Ralph Alfred Friesenhahn, is serving a four-year sentence for driving while intoxicated, his third or more offense. Documents show he rolled his car in 2011.

"The alcohol level was, I believe, at 0.29," Jones said.

Jones said there's a reason that number shouldn't have been taken into account. Friesenhahn is an alcoholic.

"These people, I believe, are being unfairly treated because they can function normally at this arbitrary number. I've had lots of juries say, outside of that number, this person looked fine. This shortcut to mass incarceration has to stop," she said.

The judge denied the first appeal Friday in Austin, but Jones is continuing a fight to drop the blood alcohol content test from DWI cases. She thinks the determination should be made based on a field sobriety test, which includes such checks as the walk and turn, standing on one leg and the horizontal gaze test.

"Most of these offenses are videotaped so you can allow the jury to draw their conclusions," Jones said.

In response, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization sent KSAT this statement: "The suggestion that it is okay to drive with anything above a .08 blood alcohol concentration is ridiculous. The .08 BAC is one of the most studied laws, which is why it is the threshold for legal impairment in every single state."

When asked how to tell if an alcoholic is too drunk without the blood alcohol content test, Jones said, "It comes back to if that person has lost their mental and physical faculties."

MADD's statement also said, "The fact is, driving after consuming any alcohol is dangerous and should be avoided. There are just too many options for a safe, non-drinking ride home, from Uber to public transportation, to taxis and a non-drinking friend."

Jones plans to appeal again. 


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