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Can I Get a DUI With a Low BAC?

Most drivers in Orange County and throughout California are well-aware that the legal limit for driving after consuming alcohol is .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers age 21 and over. If you’re under the age of 21, you can’t drive with any detectable alcohol in your system due to California’s “zero tolerance” law.

Since each state abides by the .08% BAC law, it’s a common misconception that you can only be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or convicted of another alcohol-related offense if you are caught with a BAC above the .08% legal limit. In reality, you can find yourself facing DUI charges even if your BAC registers below .08%.

How is This Legal?

Under California law, anyone with a BAC of .08% or more faces DUI charges under VC Section 23152(b). However, a person with a lower BAC can still face criminal charges under VC Section 23152(a), which states that it is unlawful for someone who is under the influence of alcohol to drive a vehicle. So, this section is somewhat open to interpretation.

Technically, a California driver can be charged with DUI even if their BAC is less than .08%. How is this possible? For one, some people have a very low alcohol tolerance and sometimes it doesn’t take much for them to show obvious signs of impairment, or for the alcohol to affect their ability to drive safely – even if it was “just one drink.”

Secondly, a driver may have just one or two drinks, but they mixed the alcohol with prescription medication, such as muscle relaxants, powerful pain killers, sleeping pills, antipsychotic medication or another sedating medication and in effect, they drove erratically until they caused a serious accident.

A low BAC driver may be arrested for DUI if they:

  • Caused an accident
  • Caused bodily injuries
  • Were slurring their words
  • Had an unsteady gait
  • Were driving erratically
  • Could not follow simple directions

Even if a driver’s BAC was less than .08%, under certain circumstances the prosecutor will try to prove that the defendant was impaired by the alcohol, and thereby an unsafe driver. In these cases, it’s not unusual for the driver to plead down to a wet reckless, which carries lesser penalties but counts as a prior DUI conviction for any subsequent DUI arrests.

If you were arrested with a low BAC, don’t assume you won’t be convicted of a criminal offense. Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to get a board-certified DUI defense specialist fighting on your side!