You Don’t Have to Be Drunk to Get Hit With a DUI Charge

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You might be surprised to know that you can be convicted of a DUI without being drunk. A DUI charge only requires impaired driving while having alcohol in your system. If you’re impaired, it doesn’t matter how much alcohol is in your system. You can still get charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is below the legal limit.

The BAC legal limit was established to provide a point at which any driver is considered intoxicated. When a driver has a BAC over the legal limit, no additional evidence is needed to prove intoxication. Evidence is needed, however, to prove intoxication with a BAC under the legal limit.

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Legal limits and DUI laws vary by state

All states but Utah set the legal limit at 0.08. Utah’s BAC is 0.05. In Chicago, the legal limit for BAC is 0.08. A BAC at or above the legal limit will likely result in a DUI charge.

A high BAC makes drunk driving extremely dangerous

When a person’s BAC is exceptionally high, they’re a greater risk on the road. It’s unfortunate that many drunk drivers well over the limit end up hurting or killing innocent people.

On May 25, 2014, Raymond Morua admitted to having eight alcoholic drinks before hitting and killing 27-year-old pedestrian Mallory Dies as she was crossing the street. He fled the scene and when he was caught, his BAC registered 0.17, more than twice the legal limit. This wasn’t Morua’s first DUI nor his first hit-and-run; he was convicted of two DUIs and a hit-and-run in 2006. After his 2014 conviction, Morua was sentenced to 20-years-to-life at a California prison.

Morua claims he blacked out and doesn’t remember the incident due to the high level of alcohol in his system.

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In Morua’s case, he had previous convictions that contributed to his sentence, but in some states he would have received a harsh sentence even without a history. In states like Illinois, a BAC higher than 0.16 can result in harsher DUI penalties. Jailtime is increased, fines are higher, and driver’s license suspensions can be exceptionally long. Visit for more information on DUI penalties in Illinois.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 48 states have increased penalties for higher BAC including Alabama, New York, Kentucky, and Georgia.

New York has a Driving While Ability Impaired Law

In New York, any driver with a BAC between 0.05-0.07 can be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). A conviction will result in a fine of up to $500 plus a $260 surcharge from the state, a 90-day license suspension, and up to 15 days in jail. Any driver found with a combination of drugs and alcohol in their system will get a separate yet similar misdemeanor charge.

Buzzed driving is drunk driving

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Some people believe they’re okay to drive after one or two drinks because it doesn’t increase their BAC to the legal limit. Others feel like they’ve still got control of their faculties after one beer and don’t think they’re affected.

The reality is, consuming even one beer can be too much for some people to drive safely. Researchers examined over 570,000 fatal car crashes from 1994-2011 and found that many of the at-fault drivers had a BAC as low as 0.01%. This indicates there is no safe level of alcohol consumption for drivers.

Being able to drive after drinking seems to be a boasting point for some people, but it’s a subjective and biased opinion, and their passengers would probably disagree. Alcohol makes people think they can do things they can’t. It impairs judgment, including the ability to know whether you’re okay to drive.

If you’re feeling buzzed after a single drink, it’s not safe for you to drive. Be responsible and have a designated driver in your group. If you’re drinking alone, arrange for a cab, a ride from a (sober) friend, or stay the night if you’re going to a party. When you’ve had a drink, stay safe and stay off the road.