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Is Buzzed Driving Illegal?

When it comes to mixing alcohol and driving, how much is too much? A number of public service announcements recently have been pushing the message: "Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.” But, what is buzzed driving really and is it against the law?

Drinking impairs judgement and reasoning. So, it’s not uncommon for someone to drink alcohol and think they’re okay to drive. If you have to ask yourself, “Am I okay to drive?” the answer is, “No, I’m not okay to drive.” But, since alcohol blunts judgement, this is the point where a lot of people decide to drive anyway.

Misconceptions About Buzzed Driving

Most people define "buzzed driving" as intoxication that doesn't quite reach the legal 0.08 percent BAC limit. The common misconception is that having a buzz is enough to affect your driving, and possibly cause slight impairment, but not enough to warrant a DUI.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Alcohol not only impairs your ability to drive, it impairs your judgement about whether you can or should drive.” The NHTSA continues, “Too often, people who drink think they are okay to get behind the wheel because they only feel a ‘buzz.’ The truth is you don’t have to be falling down drunk to be a menace to everyone around you on the highways.”

In all U.S. states, the legal intoxication limit is:

· 0.08 percent,

· 0.04 percent for commercial drivers, and

· 0.02 or 0.01 percent for drivers under the age of 21. Under California’s zero tolerance law, the limit is 0.01 percent.

You Can Get a DUI for ‘Buzzed Driving’

California's primary DUI law is covered in Section 23152 of the Vehicle Code. It not only says it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol at a concentration of 0.08 percent or more, it says it is "unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle."

For this reason, drivers can be pulled over and arrested for drunk driving even if they are buzzed. If this has happened to you, there is the possibility that you could plead "wet reckless." This type of plea deal essentially says that yes, you had alcohol in your system while driving, but you were not under the influence of alcohol. You were driving recklessly with alcohol in your system.

Many people arrested for buzzed driving can plead wet reckless to get their DUI reduced. There are still penalties for wet reckless, but they are in no way as severe as DUI penalties.

Related: Can I Get a DUI With a Low BAC?

If you would like to learn more about your defense options after a drunk driving arrest, contact an Orange County DUI lawyer at The Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry today.