Can I be Charged with DUI/DWI if My BAC was Below the Legal Limit?
Being charged with a DUI can be a life-altering and terrifying experience that many people go out of their way to try and avoid. Most people can tell you that the legal limit for driving in North Carolina is .08%. A blood alcohol level of .08 means that a person’s blood supply contains eight parts alcohol for every 10,000 parts blood. This is considered the maximum legal amount. If a driver is given a breathalyzer test and the results indicate a BAC higher than .08, the driver is considered “per se intoxicated” under North Carolina law. This means that even if they were exhibiting no other signs of impairment, they can still be charged with DUI/DWI because of their score. However, a driver does not always have to blow higher than a .08 in order to be arrested for DUI/DWI. In fact, many drivers are blindsided and enraged to find out that they can be arrested and charged with DUI/DWI even if their BAC is below the legal limit.
That is right: It is not as black and white as you may think. Blowing below a .08 on a roadside breathalyzer test is not the get-out-of-jail-free card that many people have been conditioned to believe, and being placed in handcuffs can be a terrifying wake-up call.
Being Arrested for Driving Under the Legal Limit
DWI stands for driving while impaired. While a BAC of .08 is a guidepost for establishing that someone is driving while impaired, it is not the only indicator. It also does not work both ways. This means that someone can be arrested for DWI for a BAC higher than .08 even if they were exhibiting no other signs of intoxication and it in no way appeared to impair their ability to operate a vehicle. On the other hand, however, someone who is swerving and appears to be exhibiting signs of impairment while driving, can be charged with DWI even if their BAC is below .08. Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of the arresting officer to determine whether a driver appears impaired. As you can imagine, this assessment can be quite subjective. If your BAC is just slightly under .08, such as .07, police can also argue that your BAC had dipped temporarily, or due to the time spent on the stop, and would otherwise have been above the legal limit. Additionally, commercial drivers can be charged with DWI for having a BAC above .04, and drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 can be charged with DWI for driving with a BAC above .02, due to North Carolina’s zero-tolerance policy.
Challenging Charges for DUI/DWI With a BAC Below the Legal Limit
While courts do tend to give some degree of deference to police officers’ accounts, their position is much weaker when they lack objective evidence to support it. Without a breathalyzer to support a claim of per se intoxication, it may open up an opportunity for your lawyer to negotiate a lesser charge, a plea bargain, or have the charges dismissed altogether.
Contact Coastal South Law
If you are facing charges for DUI/DWI in North Carolina, the best thing you can do is hire a lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Coastal South Law today and schedule a consultation to find out how we can help ensure the best possible outcome for you.