Your BAC Wasn’t 0.08. How Did You Get a DWI Charge?

A common misconception is that you can be charged with driving while impaired only if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. However, BAC levels are not the only factors considered in DWI laws. If you look closely at Minnesota Statutes § 169A.20, you’ll see that one of the provisions states that a person breaks the law if they are under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, if you are a commercial driver’s license holder (CDL), you are subject to a lower BAC level. Thus, even if your BAC was not 0.08, you can still get charged with a DWI in Minnesota.

If you need legal help challenging criminal accusations, schedule a consultation with our Minneapolis lawyers at Brockton D. Hunter P.A. by calling (612) 979-1112 or submitting an online contact form today.

How Is BAC Measured?

One of the first things a police officer will do if they suspect that you were driving while impaired is measure your blood alcohol concentration. Your BAC can be measured in several ways.

During the initial DWI stop, the officer might direct you to blow into a handheld breath test device, which analyzes the amount of alcohol in your deep lung air. If the officer lawfully arrests you, they may direct you to provide a blood, breath, or urine sample for analysis.

The handheld breath test on the side of the road or the chemical tests at the police station indicates your BAC. If your BAC is 0.08 or higher, you can be charged with a DWI, even if you were not impaired by alcohol.

An Unlawful BAC Isn’t the Only Way to Get a DWI

The law presumes that you are driving while intoxicated if your BAC is at or above the legal limit. However, you can still be arrested if your BAC is lower than 0.08.

Minnesota’s statutes provide that it’s a crime to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. To be under the influence means that your normal faculties are compromised because of the consumption of alcohol. For instance, your judgment or inhibitions might be impaired, or your balance, speech, vision, or reaction time could be reduced.

When your faculties are degraded because of alcohol, your ability to drive safely is also impacted. If you get behind the wheel, there is a greater likelihood that you could get into an accident resulting in injury to yourself or others.

Your BAC does not necessarily have to be at 0.08 for your normal faculties to be impaired. A BAC of 0.04 to 0.05 could affect you. That said, alcohol affects everyone differently, and people will react differently at certain BAC levels.

If a police officer notices that your driving behaviors are erratic, they could pull you over for DWI. Even if your BAC isn’t 0.08, if the officer’s initial investigation produces evidence that you are intoxicated by alcohol, they could have probable cause to arrest you.

Lower BAC Levels for CDL Holders

Another way you could get a DWI charge even if your BAC is lower than 0.08 is if you are a commercial driver’s license holder. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established a BAC limit of 0.04 for CDL holders. This is the level at which these individuals are deemed to be under the influence.

Several reasons may exist for a lower BAC for CDL holders, including the following:

  • Commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are much larger than passenger cars. An accident involving a CMV can be significantly devastating.
  • Commercial drivers may be transporting hazardous materials. If the driver gets into an accident, the substance can spill from the truck to a much wider area than just the scene of the wreck, potentially putting more lives at risk.
  • Commercial drivers might be transporting passengers. A CDL holder, such as a bus driver, is responsible not only for their life but for the lives of others as well.

The Consequences of a DWI Charge

Whether your BAC was above or below 0.08, you could face severe penalties if convicted.

The potential punishments for a first violation are the same regardless of BAC level and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Jail for 90 days
  • Fine of $1,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of 30 days to 1 year

If you’re a CDL holder, your commercial driver’s license may be disqualified for 1 year if you were operating any motor vehicle and 3 years if you were transporting hazardous materials. According to the FMCSA, you may be subject to driver’s license disqualification even if you were off duty while driving a CMV and received a DWI.

Reach Out to Our Firm Today

A DWI charge should be taken seriously regardless of the facts leading up to it. The potential penalties you could face can profoundly impact your life. Still, you may seek to mitigate the effects by challenging the accusations against you.

At Brockton D. Hunter P.A., our Minneapolis lawyers build aggressive defense strategies for those facing criminal allegations.

To speak with us about your case, please call (612) 979-1112. You can also contact us online, and we will respond promptly.