Think DWIs only happen when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher? Think again. Texas’s DWI law doesn’t just concern incidents involving individuals operating vehicles with an elevated BAC level. It also addresses a person’s ability to drive safely.
The 0.08 or higher BAC limit is the per se law, which means the court presumes a person was intoxicated when driving because their alcohol content was at that level. But you can also be arrested for, charged with, or convicted of DWI if your bac was under 0.08 and you couldn’t drive safely.
If you’ve been accused of driving while intoxicated in Dallas, contact Deandra Grant Law at (214) 225-7117.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR BAC IS 0.08?
According to the National Traffic Highway Administration (NHTSA), when a person’s BAC is 0.08 or higher, their cognitive and motor functions are substantially affected.
An elevated BAC can impair a person’s:
- Reaction time,
- Judgment, and
All of these functions are necessary to safely drive a vehicle. Thus, if you’re affected by alcohol, the risks of getting into an injury-causing or fatal accident are greatly increased. For instance, if your vision is blurry, you might not be able to tell how far a car or other object is in front of you. Or, with a slower reaction time, you might not be able to respond quickly if a car or person comes in your path.
Also, because alcohol blocks your inhibitions, you might be inclined to do things you normally wouldn’t do, such as speed on the highway or ignore traffic signals.
DOES IMPAIRMENT HAPPEN ONLY AT A 0.08 BAC?
The adverse effects of alcohol can be apparent even if you’re BAC is below 0.08.
For instance, the NHTSA reports that at a BAC of 0.05, a person could:
- Have trouble focusing their eyes,
- Be less alert,
- Have reduced coordination, or
- Have slower reflexes
Although cognitive and motor abilities might be impacted to a lesser extent when BAC is below 0.08, even a slight alteration of your normal faculties can have dangerous consequences.
HOW MANY DRINKS UNTIL SOMEONE IS INTOXICATED?
A person’s liver can process about one standard drink per hour. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s about 12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor with 40% alcohol.
That said, everybody is different. How long alcohol will stay in a person’s system and cause an increased BAC depends on several factors.
Some of these variables include, but are not limited to:
- Food consumption,
- Duration of drinking, and
- Alcohol tolerance.
Therefore, you might have had the same number of drinks as your friend, but at the end of the night you might have a higher BAC than them for any number of reasons.
WHAT DOES TEXAS’S LAW SAY ABOUT DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED?
As noted earlier, Texas’s DWI law doesn’t just mention driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. What it prohibits is driving while intoxicated.
Texas Penal Code § 49.01 defines intoxicated as:
- An alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more or
- “Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.”
Because of the second provision listed above (in the actual statute, it’s the first provision), you could be charged with or convicted of a DWI regardless of your BAC level, provided that the state can prove that you were intoxicated at the time of the offense.
WHAT OTHER EVIDENCE CAN BE USED TO SUGGEST INTOXICATION?
The results of a blood or breath test are just one tool used to attempt to prove guilt. Absent a 0.08 or higher BAC level, the prosecutor will rely on other information to obtain a DWI conviction.
Some of the evidence they might introduce includes:
- Driving behavior: The arresting officer could testify that they saw you swerving, making jerky stops, or disobeying traffic signals while you were driving.
- Personal behaviors: The officer may state that when they approached your vehicle and interviewed you, you could not answer basic questions, gave unclear responses, had watery or bloodshot eyes, or smelled of alcohol, among other things.
- Field sobriety test performance: During the stop, the officer might have directed you to participate in field sobriety tests and your performance indicated several clues of impairment.
WHAT ABOUT DWI OF DRUGS?
Let’s not forget that a person can violate the state’s DWI law if they operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs. A chemical analysis can detect drugs in your system, but it won’t generate a BAC level. Even so, you can still be convicted of DWI because illicit drugs or even prescription medications might not affect your BAC score (or they may only impact the level slightly), but they can affect your driving abilities.
TURN TO DEANDRA GRANT LAW FOR HELP FIGHTING YOUR DWI CHARGE
Whether your BAC was at 0.08 or less, you face fines, incarceration, and driver’s license suspension. You can seek to avoid or minimize these penalties by challenging the accusations against you.
Our Dallas team will scour the facts of your case to determine how to vigorously defend you.
Schedule a consultation by calling (214) 225-7117 or submitting an online contact form today.