Many people assume that they can only be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is higher than the legal limit, which in North Carolina is 0.08 percent. However, you may still be charged in some circumstances. In this article, we explore what those are.
If you were charged with impaired driving despite having a BAC of less than 0.08 percent, contact an Asheville DWI/DUI defense attorney immediately to defend your rights and fight the allegations.
What Is BAC?
The percentage of alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) in a person’s blood is blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC level of 0.10 percent indicates that one part alcohol per 1000 parts of blood is present in an individual’s blood supply.
Factors that Impact BAC
The following can all impact your BAC:
- How many drinks one consumes
- The amount of time in which the drinks were consumed
- The person’s weight/height
- Water composition
- The person’s enzyme production
- Gender and hormone levels
- Medications the person might be currently taking
- Food intake before or after drinking
The Effects of BAC
Here are the general effects according to the BAC level:
- 0.01 to 0.03
Most people will not exhibit any apparent effects. Generally, most people will feel a minor “mood” elevation. However, if you are under 21 years of age, you will still be legally impaired to drive a bike or car.
- 0.04 to 0.06
Most people will feel more relaxed and experience minor impairment in processing information and memory.
- 0.07 to 0.09
This is the bracket where most people will experience balance issues, speech, vision, and other motor control impairment. In North Carolina, if you test at 0.08 BAC you might be charged with a DUI.
- 0.10 to 0.12
Motor coordination is severely hampered, and judgment is impaired. Slurred speech is possible.
- 0.13 to 0.15
Motor control is severely impaired. Vision blurring and a significant loss of balance. Dysphoria might appear (anxiety, restlessness).
- 0.16 to 0.20
Dysphoria is the most common symptom. Nausea is a possibility. The drinker has a “sloppy drunk” appearance.
- 0.25 – 0.30
Intoxication to the point of being sick. Walking help is required—confusion in mind. Dysphoria is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
- 0.35 – 0.40
Here, people might experience loss of consciousness, and some might even slip into a coma.
- 0.40 and higher
This is a hazardous zone where people risk death due to respiratory failure.
The CDC offers more details on each category.
Can You Be Charged With DWI if Your BAC is Under 0.08 Percent?
DWI charges can be filed under NCGS 20-138.1 if a driver is caught operating a vehicle in public while under the influence of alcohol or another sedative, such as marijuana or opiates. It is illegal to drive in North Carolina with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above.
Provided your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is less than 0.08 percent, you may still be charged with DWI if the prosecutor can show “appreciable impairment.” Even though a driver’s BAC level is below the legal limit, they can be convicted of DWI if their physical and mental capacities were “appreciably” affected by an impairing drug.
In fact, under the “appreciable impairment” rule, a person can be convicted of driving while intoxicated even if their blood alcohol concentration is close to zero.
When a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test when the officer requests it, prosecutors in North Carolina deploy the “appreciable impairment” allegation.
How Is Appreciable Impairment Established?
Appreciable impairment is usually established through observations made by the officer who arrests a driver on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The following are some examples of observations that could indicate significant impairment:
- The driver’s performance of field sobriety tests, especially the one-leg stand test
- Other signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, taking too long to produce a driver’s license, bloodshot eyes
- Other indicators of impaired driving
However, all of these indicators of impaired driving based on the arresting officer’s observations are highly subjective. As a result, having a knowledgeable and experienced DWI defense attorney on your side might help you fight the evidence of “appreciable impairment” and get the charges dismissed or dropped.
A person fumbling with their driver’s license, for example, could be nervous in a stressful circumstance. In contrast, someone with slurred speech could have a medical issue that makes it challenging to communicate clearly.
Contact an Asheville DUI/DWI Lawyer Today
If you have been arrested for DWI despite having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.08 percent, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Even if your BAC is less than 0.08 percent, you can still be charged with DWI in North Carolina. You can request a free consultation with one of our professional DWI defense attorneys in North Carolina.