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Do BAC levels matter in DWI charges?

When a police officer pulls over a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the officer will test the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) through a breathalyzer.

If the driver’s breathalyzer results show that their BAC is 0.08% or higher, authorities can charge them with DWI. While it’s common knowledge that the BAC limit officers are looking for is 0.08%, some New Jersey drivers tend to forget that having certain higher BAC levels can result in harsher penalties if they’re charged for the first time with DWI.

BAC levels and penalties

Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher but less than 0.10% can face fines between $250 and $400 and imprisonment for up to 30 days. They must also choose between installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in their cars for three months or suspending their license. Those charged with DWI for the first time must also attend two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

Those charged for the first time following a recorded BAC of 0.10% but less than 0.15% get a $300 to $500 fine and a 30-day jail time. They also risk losing their license unless they agree to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles for up to a year. They must also spend two days at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

Drivers who get a BAC of 0.15% or higher get the harshest penalties for their first DWI charge. The authorities will need an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles during their license suspension period, which can run from four to six months. They must also keep the IID on their automobile for nine to 15 months after license restoration.

Breathalyzer accuracy

Although BAC levels are important factors in how harsh a driver’s DWI penalties are, drivers should also remember that breathalyzers aren’t 100% accurate. The following can affect the BAC results of a breathalyzer:

  • Temperature
  • Driver’s health
  • How hard the driver blew into the device
  • Compounds in the driver’s breath

Some foods, such as bread, have also been noted to cause the breathalyzer to display a BAC of 0.05%, even when the driver hasn’t had any liquor.

Because breathalyzers have a margin of error, a driver can test for a higher BAC level and receive more severe penalties when charged with DWI. It can be difficult to contest this in court, but a driver can seek the advice of a legal professional to help them protect their rights and challenge BAC results.



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