Blood alcohol concentration refers to the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream after drinking, expressed as a percentage. The effects of BAC at certain percentages have been well documented. State governments have used this evidence to determine a certain BAC level at which the law presumes that you are too intoxicated to drive. This is commonly referred to as the legal limit.
However, while you may not be aware of it, it is possible for authorities to arrest you and file DUI charges even if your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit. To understand why, you have to know what the law says about per se intoxication.
Blood Alcohol Level and Per Se Intoxication
Per se intoxication refers to the concentration of alcohol that you have in your blood that renders you too intoxicated to drive. If your BAC meets or exceeds the legal limit, authorities typically do not require any further evidence of your intoxication in order to charge you with driving under the influence.
For a long time, the legal limit for blood alcohol was 0.08% in all states. However, in 2018, Utah lowered its legal limit to 0.05%, meaning that you could be considered intoxicated after consuming fewer drinks. As of now, Utah is the only state to have adopted this change. However, state legislatures in a handful of other states, such as Michigan, are considering a similar alteration.
However, even if your blood alcohol is below the legal limit, you may still be arrested and charged with drunk driving. You may not meet the criteria for per se intoxication, but if authorities can gather and document evidence that you were driving under the influence in addition to an elevated BAC, they can still charge you.
For example, the arresting officer may record body cam or dash cam footage of you walking unsteadily, slurring your speech, or failing field sobriety tests. He or she may report smelling alcohol on your breath when talking to you or finding open containers or paraphernalia in your vehicle. If present, observed, and documented, evidence such as this combined with your blood alcohol concentration may be sufficient cause to charge you with DUI.
When BAC is sufficiently elevated, authorities often do not bother trying to look for any more evidence of your impairment. However, recent research has discovered that breath tests used to measure blood alcohol level are not always accurate. Sometimes they are artificially augmented. An attorney, like a Civic Center San Francisco, CA DUI lawyer from Hallinan Law Firm, may be able to defend you against DUI charges. Contact a law office to arrange a consultation.