When you were pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, your blood alcohol content (BAC) – according to the breath test you were given by the police – was only .06%. You know that’s below the .08% that you understand as the “legal limit” for intoxication, so you thought you were okay – until the officer put you in handcuffs.
What just happened? Has the legal BAC for drivers changed? Not at all, but your confusion is understandable. Here’s what you should know:
The .08% BAC is the threshold for automatic drunkenness
The .08% BAC limit is what’s called the “per se,” meaning that proof that your blood alcohol content is .08% or higher is “by itself” automatic proof that you’re too imparied to be behind the wheel of a vehicle. Absent any other evidence of intoxication, that’s evidence enough to convict you of drunk driving.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be arrested for impaired driving with a BAC of .06% or .04% if the arresting officer has other evidence that you may be impaired. They needed some kind of reasonable suspicion to stop your car, so they may have you on dashcam video weaving, staying too long in one spot after a light turns green or crossing the yellow line.
You may have inadvertently given the officer evidence of your own impairment to use as their probable cause for the arrest. For example, if the officer asked you if you’d been drinking and you admitted to having a couple of beers with your friends before heading home, that’s evidence they can use to justify your arrest. So are things like slurred words, bloodshot eyes or the odor of alcohol around you.
You can even be arrested for impaired driving if you blow a .00% on the breath alcohol test if the officer has reason to believe that you may be under the influence of some drug or combo of drugs.
Whatever your situation, you don’t want to panic. You need experienced legal guidance to help you understand the best steps to take next and your possible defenses.