The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%. If you blow higher than 0.08% on a breathalyzer— or 0.02% for drivers younger than 21—you’re considered legally drunk and can be prosecuted.
Before you get behind the wheel after even one drink, you should know the drunk driving laws and how they can affect you.
How is BAC Measured?
Your blood alcohol content can be measured in several different ways:
- Breathalyzer test—uses chemical reactions to determine how much alcohol you have in your system
- Blood test (chemical test)—uses a small needle to draw a blood sample from the arm or finger and sends it to a lab for testing
- Urine test—samples and tests your urine for drugs and alcohol at the police station or hospital
- Saliva testing—is used when people have consumed alcoholic beverages over an extended period (not commonly used because they’re unreliable compared to other BAC testing methods)
In most states, you are subject to implied consent laws. If you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, you have pre-consented to having your blood alcohol levels tested.
Drunk Driving Laws
There are many laws that address impaired driving. The most important are Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).
DUI—is the more serious of the two offenses and applies if you’re operating a motor vehicle and:
- Have a BAC level of 0.08% or greater
- Are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
- Have any amount of a controlled substance in the body
DWAI only requires police officers to prove that you showed visible signs of impairment due to drug use or alcohol abuse. This can include several factors, like slurred speech, poor judgment, and difficulty walking.
Increased Penalties for Drunk Driving
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drinking faster can cause your BAC levels to increase quickly. If you’re pulled over with a BAC of 0.17% or higher, you will incur longer jail time and higher fees.
You will also face enhanced penalties if you were driving with a minor in the vehicle (16 or younger) or were operating a commercial vehicle.
Your Rights After Being Pulled Over For Drunk Driving
Driving while intoxicated is viewed as a threat to public health. Any form of alcohol use before driving will be heavily scrutinized. If you have been drinking, you must protect yourself by knowing your rights under the law.
You Don’t Have to Submit to Field Sobriety Tests
Implied consent laws only apply after you’ve been arrested for drunk driving. You do not have to submit to field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test. These tests only exist to give the officer evidence that you were operating the vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit.
Once you’re taken to the station, then any subsequent refusals of a BAC test will be penalized.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Even a standard drink can cause impaired judgment. Exercise your right to silence. You do not have to answer all the questions the police officer asks you. Talking too much can cause you to self-incriminate and offer more evidence against yourself.
You Have The Right to Retain Representation
Driving while intoxicated is a hard charge to beat—it’s your word against theirs.
A DWI lawyer works on these types of cases day in and day out. They can protect your reputation and keep you out of jail.
Contact an experienced DUI Lawyer for assistance
Many factors affect BAC, like body weight, how much food you’ve eaten, and alcohol tolerance. A blood alcohol test doesn’t account for those facts and shouldn’t define your future.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you need a DUI lawyer to help you fight the charges. Contact Rose Legal Services to discuss your options.