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The legal limit does not protect you from a DUI

People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the legal limit for a driver's alcohol consumption -- a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08% for most drivers -- can protect them from getting a DUI. It's important to understand that that is not exactly how the law works, despite this common misconception.

For example, imagine that you looked up how much alcohol you could drink in a set period of time without going over the limit. When hitting the bar with your friends, you stuck to that amount. You then hopped in the car to drive home.

An officer still pulled you over and asked you to take a breath test. You took it, confident that you would be under 0.08%, and you were right. It was 0.07%. You grinned, feeling like you did the right thing and used the law to your advantage, making sure you would not get arrested.

However, the officer decided to arrest you anyway. What happened?

Was your driving impaired?

The big question to ask is whether or not your driving was impaired by the alcohol. That's actually what the officer is looking for. Maybe you drifted over the center line repeatedly or ran a stop sign. The officer pulled you over and decided you were too drunk to drive.

But what about the limit? It doesn't necessarily matter. You can suffer from impairment even under 0.08%.

Look at it like this: If you break the 0.08% limit, the officer can now show the court that you violated the law. No matter how you felt -- maybe you could barely tell you had been drinking -- the court considers you to be intoxicated under the law. It's known as "per se intoxicated" and the officer doesn't need anything else to prove it.

Under that 0.08% limit, the officer can't use your BAC to show you were drunk, but that doesn't mean he or she can't use other evidence. Maybe the officer has you on camera failing field sobriety tests or driving over the centerline. With that evidence, the officer can argue that you did drive while impaired by alcohol.

The test may even come back into the picture at this point. After all, your 0.07% proves you had been drinking. The officer's other evidence proves that you felt impaired. Suddenly, you have a DUI even though you believed you followed the law to the letter.

Your defense options

If this happened to you, you probably feel fairly shocked and concerned. You didn't want to jeopardize your future, but now it's happened to you all the same. It's very important that you understand your legal defense options and what you can do to protect that future moving forward.

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