Can you get an OWI under the legal limit?

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2021 | Criminal Defense

If you stay under the legal limit (a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%) does that mean you can’t get charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI)? After all, the limit exists so that the courts can assume you were impaired. If you’re under it, wouldn’t that mean they know you were not impaired?

It is true that being below the 0.08% BAC limit means the court can’t assume you were impaired, but that’s only half of it. You can definitely still get stopped and arrested, and you can even face OWI charges. The officers will simply need to show you were impaired in another way, since the breath test doesn’t do so, but they do have options. As such, you can still get charged if your BAC is under 0.08%. 

How does it work?

For instance, say you run a stop sign after having a few drinks. The police rightly pull you over. They have you do field sobriety tests, one of which you fail. That prompts them to give you a breath test, where you blow a 0.07%. 

They can’t assume you were impaired because of that test, but they can know that you were drinking alcohol. Moreover, they can use the failed field test and the fact that you ran the stop sign to argue that 0.07% was enough to make you impaired. The legal limit applies to the population at large, but they can still claim you had passed your personal threshold and were therefore a dangerous driver. 

If you are facing charges like this, it’s going to be complicated and you definitely need to know what rights you have as you mount a defense.