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  • Legal Alcohol Limits | 0.08% BAC Explained

    Legal Alcohol Limits | 0.08% BAC Explained

    A blood alcohol content level of 0.08% or higher is illegal while driving in any part of the United States. Your blood alcohol content level, or BAC level, measures how much alcohol is in your blood.

    If you are caught breaking the legal limit for drunk driving, you may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, also known as a DUI or DWI. Police officers have many ways to test your BAC level, including breath tests, blood tests, and field sobriety tests.

    Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system can be more dangerous than driving sober. 

    When you’re drinking, it can be difficult to know what your exact blood alcohol level is. Most health experts and law enforcement recommend not driving after any amount of drinking to make the road safer.

    Differences In BAC Limits By State

    The legal limit of 0.08% applies in any part of the United States. More specific drunk driving laws often vary by state.

    Enhanced Penalties By State

    Some states have enhanced penalties if you are caught driving with a BAC level much higher than 0.08%.

    At 0.15% BAC levels, some states start giving out enhanced penalties. States that have DUI laws with increased penalties at 0.15% BAC include Alaska, California, and Texas. States like Minnesota, Connecticut, Utah, New York, and New Mexico have slightly higher limits.

    Mississippi is the only state that does not have enhanced BAC penalties.

    Zero Tolerance Policies

    Zero tolerance laws apply to minors who might drink alcohol under the age of 21. Every state has a zero-tolerance policy, which is between 0.00 to 0.02% BAC depending on the state. This equals about one standard alcoholic beverage, depending on factors like body weight.

    About 35 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes for people aged 15 to 20 involved the influence of alcohol. Zero tolerance laws were made to discourage underage drinking, and can hopefully lower the chances of minors being involved in fatal car crashes.

    Legal Limit For Commercial Drivers

    The legal limit of blood alcohol concentration for people driving a commercial vehicle is 0.04 percent, about half of the normal legal limit. 

    Commercial drivers are often driving larger vehicles with precious cargo. Bus drivers and tractor-trailer truck drivers are two examples of commercial drivers, who have a responsibility to move their passengers and cargo around safely.

    If you get a DUI charge with a commercial license (CDL), you may earn a license suspension for up to one year.

    Testing For Drunk Driving

    If you are pulled over for drunk driving, a police officer may ask if you have been drinking. They may ask you to use a breathalyzer, a breath test that measures your BAC level.

    Field Sobriety Tests

    Field sobriety tests are a common form of DUI tests. They involve checking your eyes and seeing if you can walk in a straight line. Police officers may look for clues during these tests to check if your impairment level is high enough to arrest you, along with your BAC level.

    Additional Blood Tests

    If you have already been arrested for a DUI, you may be required to submit additional blood tests. 

    If you fail these tests, along with the tests done by the police officers, you may be convicted of a DUI by a court. If you refuse to go along with the tests, your license may also be suspended.

    Punishments For A DUI

    If you are convicted of a DUI, the punishments are likely severe. Punishments that come with a DUI conviction may include:

    • jail time
    • impounding (legally seizing) your car
    • fines
    • a driver’s license suspension
    • lawsuits (in cases with a serious injury)

    First time offenders may be given a temporary license that allows them to drive when necessary. Going through a DUI program is necessary to get your regular driver’s license back after the first offense.

    Repeat DUI offenses can result in harsher penalties, including longer license suspensions and the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the car. IIDs make a driver pass a breathalyzer test before starting the car.

    Find Help For Alcohol-Related Problems

    If you are waiting for a court hearing related to a DUI, you may want a good DUI lawyer to help your case. Defense attorneys are one type of person who can help with one type of issue with alcohol.

    Drinking too much alcohol can cause problems in other areas of your life. Along with injuries caused by driving drunk, alcohol can cause long-term damage to your brain, liver, and even your mental health.

    To find help for long-term health problems caused by alcohol, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcohol Policy Information System - Alcohol Policy Information System​​​
    California Department of Motor Vehicles - Alcohol and Drugs
    California Department of Motor Vehicles - Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 17, 2022
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