Imagine this: It’s Halloween and you’re on the way home from a costume party. Sure, you had a couple of drinks over the evening, but you’re not even buzzed, let alone drunk. At most, you’re pleasantly relaxed – until the police car behind you flashes its lights and motions you to pull over.
The officer takes note of your costume and asks where you’ve been. Without thinking about it, you admit that you were at a party. When the officer asks if you had anything to drink, you acknowledge that you had a beer or two, but stress that it was some hours earlier.
The officer then asks you for a Breathalyzer test. You confidently comply and blow just a .04% – just half the legal limit. So, why did you end up in handcuffs?
You don’t need to be over the legal limit to be considered intoxicated
A lot of people don’t realize this, but the .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is actually what’s referred to as the “per se” limit. That means that absent any other evidence of intoxication or impaired driving, your BAC alone means that you’re officially inebriated.
That doesn’t mean that you cannot be charged with (or convicted of) driving while intoxicated (DWI), anyhow. The officer can use the following kinds of evidence to make their case for probable cause for the arrest:
- Whatever traffic error you may have made that drew the officer’s attention and created reasonable suspicion for the stop
- Your admission that you had, prior to driving, consumed any amount of alcohol
- Any other observations the officer may have that indicated intoxication, such as slurred words, bloodshot eyes or the smell of alcohol on your person
- Your ability (or inability) to adequately perform any roadside sobriety testing (like the one-legged stand) if you agreed to attempt them
There’s no point in sitting around and asking yourself what you could have done differently. The reality is that the officer was probably looking for drunk drivers, so they found one. Now, the important thing to do is focus on your defense options.