It’s generally accepted across the United States that a person is legally drunk if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels are at least .08% or higher. This benchmark applies even in New Jersey, where the punishments for those convicted of DWI depend on how high their BAC was at the time of the offense.
But can an officer charge you for DWI if your BAC barely misses the 0.08% mark?
Sufficient intoxication can lead to DWI
According to the state Attorney General, an officer can charge you with DWI even if your BAC doesn’t hit 0.08%. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect some drivers, so you can face charges no matter how low your blood alcohol levels are if an officer has reason to believe your driving ability was impaired.
The penalties for sub-.08% BAC DWI
If you’re convicted of DWI despite having a BAC lower than .08% at the time of the offense, you’ll face the same penalties as those levied against offenders with a BAC between .08% and .10%.
For a first conviction, you may have to pay as much as $400 in fines and serve up to 30 days in jail. A court might also ask you to serve a maximum detainment period of 48 hours attending a program under one of the state’s Intoxicated Driver Resource Centers. Officials might also order you to forfeit your driving rights unless you agree to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle.
Yes, you can face charges
An officer can charge you with DWI even if your BAC level is lower than the .08% threshold. If you feel tipsy after just one drink or two, avoid driving. And if you are arrested and face a charge for sub-.08% BAC DWI, carefully consider your legal options.