As many people know, a driver can be charged with driving under the influence if their blood alcohol content percentage is 0.08 or higher. The limit is over zero because the effects of alcohol tend to not inhibit the average person until their BAC is around 0.08 percent. But what happens when you’re under the legal limit and get pulled over or get into an accident? You may be surprised to know that motorists with a lower blood alcohol content than the legal limit can be arrested, charged, and convicted if a law enforcement official has the evidence to prove you were too drunk to drive when you were stopped.
How Many Drink Does It Take to Reach a 0.08 BAC?
While exact blood alcohol levels are difficult to estimate, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) developed charts to help people know when they’ve had too much to drink. There are two charts, one for men and one for women. For the purpose of the charts, one drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine.
For the average man, who weighs around 195 pounds, it’s suggested by the chart that he will be impaired after three drinks and legally intoxicated after four. For the average woman, who weighs 170 pounds, she will be impaired after two drinks and legally intoxicated after three.
There are a number of factors that affect how alcohol is absorbed and metabolized. The first two, which we discussed above, are biological sex and weight. In general, alcohol is metabolized at a different rate in women than it is in men. Women have fewer enzymes used to metabolize alcohol, which is why they generally become intoxicated faster. Weight also plays a role. If two people drink the same amount, it’s likely the lighter of the two will feels the effects of the alcohol sooner.
Medicine can also impact how someone’s body reacts to alcohol. Certain drugs or medications could have adverse effects and interactions with alcohol. Even acetaminophen can react with alcohol because of how it affects the liver. In addition to the medications, there are certain medical conditions, like genetic enzyme deficiencies, that can decrease the body’s ability to process alcohol.
How the Police Decide to Arrest Someone with a Legal BAC
When a police officer pulls you over, they have to have a reason. This is called a primary offense. Even if they pulled you over for something unrelated to alcohol, they may ask you if you’ve had anything to drink—especially if its nighttime or they believe they smell alcohol.
According to the laws established by the state, it’s unlawful for a person over the age of 21 to operate a vehicle when a chemical analysis shows their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent. If you are pulled over and asked to submit to a breathalyzer test, you could suffer administrative suspension of your driving privileges if you refuse.
But, if a driver exhibits clear signs of intoxication, even with a BAC lower than 0.08, they can still get charged with a DUI. When a person is pulled over, the police officer might be suspicious of intoxicated driving. Even with a lower BAC, factors like the person’s answers to the officer’s questions, their behavior, the smell of alcohol in their car or on their breath, jerky eye movements, slurred speech, or uncoordinated movements could be enough for an officer to have probable cause to arrest someone.
Depending on the circumstances, a person with a BAC under .08 who is driving erratically could be charged with reckless driving. According to the Mississippi Code § 63-3-1201, reckless driving occurs when any person operating a vehicle willfully or wantonly disregards the safety of others. A first conviction is punishable with a fine of $5 to $100. A second offense could lead to up to ten days in jail and a $500 fine.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Mississippi and your BAC was below the legal limit, contact Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law to learn about your rights. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, our attorneys may able to prove that the police did not have enough probable cause to arrest you for a DUI or stop you in the first place. There also may be other valid reasons for why you showed signs of impairment. We can help you aggressively defend your DUI charge. Contact us for more information.
2019 Law Changes in Mississippi