The numbers from your blood alcohol concentration test hold a lot of weight in determining whether you will be charged with driving while intoxicated. The big number in almost every state is 0.08 percent BAC, which is the legal limit that determines whether you are intoxicated (Utah is the exception because it recently lowered its limit to 0.05 percent). However, there is more to BAC levels in Texas law than a simple 0.08 cut-off point. You can still be charged with DWI when your BAC is below the legal limit, and the level of the charge can increase depending on how much your BAC exceeds the limit.
Less than 0.08
The 0.08 percent BAC limit is based on the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream that it usually takes to impair their driving capabilities. Your alcohol tolerance may be different than that, depending on factors such as your:
If your BAC is above the legal limit but you show no signs of impairment, you are still considered to be legally intoxicated. If your BAC is below the legal limit but you do show signs of impairment, a police officer can still arrest you on suspicion of DWI if they believe that your impairment reached the level of intoxication. Your advantage in this scenario is that the prosecution is basing its case solely on subjective evidence from the officer’s observations, which is easier to dispute than scientific blood test results.
A recent poll by the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute suggests that more Texans are in favor of stricter laws for driving while intoxicated than the national average. According to the results:
60 percent of Texans support lowering the blood alcohol concentration limit to 0.05, as opposed to 54 percent of national respondents; and
48 percent of Texans support lowering the BAC limit to zero, as opposed to 46 percent of national respondents.
Approving a zero-tolerance BAC law is unrealistic, but a 0.05 BAC limit has precedence. Utah is set to enact the country’s first 0.05 BAC limit at the end of the year, which may encourage other states to do the same.
How much alcohol does it take to reach a 0.05 BAC? That depends on several factors:
Though more accurate than a breath test, a blood test can still have inaccurate results in a driving while intoxicated case. There are many chances for a blood sample to become contaminated during the process, resulting in the sample showing a higher blood alcohol concentration level than was actually in the driver’s blood at the time of the arrest. An experienced DWI defense attorney knows where errors are likely to occur in the blood test process that may make the test results inaccurate and inadmissible in court.
Mistakes in taking the suspect’s blood can contaminate the sample from the start. A police officer drawing your blood is not always as skilled as a medical professional. The officer may make a mistake by:
Waiting too long to draw the blood sample;
Contaminating the sample with the alcohol swab used to clean the extraction site on the skin; or
Drawing a blood clot, which has a higher concentration of blood alcohol than a normal blood sample.
You may need to recount possible mistakes made during the blood drawing process, as the person drawing the blood is not required to testify.
Texas drivers should be familiar with the number 0.08. That is the blood alcohol concentration level at which someone is considered legally intoxicated. A breath or blood test result of 0.08 or higher will lead to an arrest and charge of driving while intoxicated. However, having a BAC that is less than the legal limit does not preclude a driver from a DWI charge. Texas police officers have the discretion to decide that a driver was legally impaired by an intoxicating substance, even if medical records do not prove it.
The Texas Penal Code states that police officers can identify intoxication in one of two circumstances:
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.