You have likely heard that the legal limit for someone’s blood alcohol level is .08. Many people falsely believe, however, that as long as your BAC is below .08, you cannot be charged with a DUI or DWI (which are used interchangeably in the state of Missouri). Blowing a .08 or higher on a breathalyzer test establishes that you are driving under the influence per se, or as a matter of fact. When a driver returns a breathalyzer result of .08 or higher, no additional evidence that they were driving under the influence is needed. That breathalyzer result is sufficient evidence to charge the driver with DWI. However, many people do not realize that they do not have to return a .08 in order to be charged.
Can I be Charged with a DWI if My BAC Was Under .08?
In short, yes. Blowing a .08 simply means that the arresting officer is not required to have any additional evidence to arrest you. However, if the officers have witnessed you swerving, driving erratically, or report that they smelled alcohol on your person or that you were slurring your speech, this is all considered evidence that you were driving under the influence. This evidence is enough to charge you with a DWI, even if your breathalyzer test shows that your BAC was below .08. In fact, any amount of alcohol in your system is sufficient, in combination with other signs or indications of alcohol use, to make a charge of DWI. It is also important to remember that DWIs do not only apply to alcohol. You can be charged with DWI for driving under the influence of any drug (illegal or prescribed) that affects your ability to safely drive and control a vehicle. If it is clear to officers that your ability to drive has been impaired, and they believe there is evidence to suggest that you are under the influence, it may not even be relevant if your breathalyzer test shows no alcohol in your system, as drugs would not show up. In this case, you will likely be given a blood or urine test in order to determine whether any other substances were affecting your ability to drive. Commercial drivers and underage drivers can also be charged with a BAC as low as .04 and .02, respectively.
How a Lawyer Can Help
While it may be jarring to realize that you can still be charged with a DWI or DUI, even with very little or no alcohol in your system, there is also good news. The good news is that cases in which the driver was charged with DWI and had a BAC below the legal limit are the easiest to overcome in court. This is because often the evidence used by the officers to arrive at the conclusion of impaired driving is highly subjective and unreliable. A lawyer can help you challenge the initial stop and examine the constitutionality of the arrest. They will also be able to help challenge the evidence against you. There may have been other explanations for erratic driving or the smell of alcohol on your person (such as having a drink spilled on you while serving as a designated driver). Field sobriety tests are also notoriously unreliable, as any number of physical, mental, or environmental factors can impact a person’s ability to balance.
Schedule a Consultation With the Johnson Law Firm
If you are facing DWI charges in Missouri, you do not have to navigate the process alone. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm today to schedule a consultation and find out how we will fight for your rights and the best possible outcome in your case.