You admit that you had a drink or two while you were out with friends, but you definitely didn’t feel intoxicated. Unfortunately, you were stopped by the police when you were driving home. One thing led to another, and you were asked to take a breath test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).
You blew a .04, which is half the legal limit of .08, so why did you end up in handcuffs? Most likely, you’ve fallen prey to a common misconception.
A BAC of .08 is the “per se” standard for intoxication
When officers have evidence that your blood alcohol content is .08 or above, that’s the “per se” threshold for legal intoxication and impairment. That means that the police need no other evidence to give them probable cause for a drunk driving arrest – and that can be enough to support a conviction.
Some drivers are considered legally impaired at even lower levels. For example, commercial drivers meet the per se threshold at just .04 BAC, while drivers under 21 years of age are subject to the zero-tolerance rule that says a .02 BAC is a crime.
However, the police can (and will) arrest you with a BAC reading that’s much lower than .08, so long as they have additional supporting evidence that shows that you’re impaired. Body camera footage and the officer’s own observations can be used as evidence in court, so the officer will be looking for things like:
- Slurred words and bloodshot eyes
- Problems following directions
- The odor of alcohol on your breath or clothes
- Visible empty beer cans in your vehicle or open bottles
- Traffic violations that indicate impairment, such as weaving, random stops, drifting out of your lane or falling asleep at the wheel
- Combativeness or inappropriate responses
Far too many people don’t realize just how easy it is for an officer to justify an arrest for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII). If you’re facing charges, find out more about your defense options.