Beyond Reason… A Blood Alcohol Level of .708

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Beyond Reason… A Blood Alcohol Level of .708

by Ned Wicker


The story out of the Rapid City Journal was almost unbelievable. Reported by Andrea Cook who wrote that a woman was found passed out behind the wheel of a stolen truck, taken into custody and tested to have a blood alcohol level of .708, almost twice what is considered a deadly level, she should have been dead.

It’s also nearly nine times South Dakota’s legal limit of .08, shared by many other states.

She didn’t show up for court

Marguerite Engle, 45, was hospitalized, and then freed on bond. She was supposed to show up in court on December 15, but did not appear, only to be found again December 28, slumped behind the wheel of another stolen car. She is being held without bail, pending trial on two separate offenses.

The state’s attorney for Meade County, Jesse Soundreal, said he spoke to a state chemist who told him he had never seen a level this high in his more than 30 years on the job. The chemist said he had seen a .53, but nothing higher. Soundreal said that .4 was lethal for about 50 percent of the population.

It takes time to build tolerance

A person can’t just drink that much alcohol right away. It takes time to build a tolerance and gradually a person’s body allows them to drink more and more to the point of consuming massive amounts of alcohol before “passing out” as Engle obviously did on those occasions.

She was found on those days when she decided to steal a vehicle, but what about all the other days? It is beyond reason to rationalize why a person would slump to the point in life that only the wash of alcohol can take away the strain and disappointment of life. It is beyond reason because we are not meant to live without hope.

What is the rest of her story?

There were very few details about Marguerite in the article. It did not say if she was married, had children, what she did for a living nor did it offer any personal details of her life, other than the fact that she had come to South Dakota from Minnesota.

What I am curious about of course is what Paul Harvey used to say, “and now for the REST of the story…” How did this woman get to the point to where she drinks herself blind and steals cars?

The disease of alcoholism drives people to do strange and unusual things that they otherwise would not think of doing. Out of control drinking, stealing cars and other bizarre forms of behavior are symptoms of a deep, spiritual problem. Something hurts.

Sad story but there is always hope!

The rest of the story is one of disappointment, emotional pain and missed expectations. The sadness of her life may seem hopeless, but there is always hope. The beauty of the 12 Step program is its focus on renewal of the spirit. If people want to be open, honest and willing, the steps are a path to wholeness and well-being that medical interventions cannot offer.

The South Dakota courts obviously have to deal with Marguerite. She did steal vehicles. But will the criminal justice system do anything to help her overcome her alcoholism? They can lock her up and dry her out, but will she be offered treatment? That’s why I favor drug courts that have been established around the country.

Incarceration is the wrong focus

The focus shouldn’t be so much on incarceration, and this country has a higher percentage of people behind bars than any other Western nation, but on healing. This woman is going to get drunk and steal cars again, not matter how long she is locked up.

However, if she goes through treatment and enters a sensible recovery program, there is hope.

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– Matthew 7:7-8

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