For a long time, every state in the country had the same legal limit for impaired drivers, including North Carolina. A driver is over the limit if he or she had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, Utah has recently lowered its legal limit to 0.05% BAC and other states are considering similar laws. Will North Carolina lower the legal limit for drunk driving to the new lower standard? If you are facing a DUI in North Carolina, contact Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, for a consultation.
United Under One BAC
Each state regulates its own drunk driving laws and historically, different states had different BAC limits for driving under the influence (DUI). Some states had a limit of 0.08%, while others were as high as 0.15%. Based on the state's research, North Carolina lowered the BAC limit from 0.10% to 0.08% on October 1, 1993.
Later, a federal transportation bill required states to have a minimum BAC standard of 0.08% by 2003. The last five states to lower their BAC were Minnesota, Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia.
National Transportation Safety Board Recommends Lower Limit
In 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a recommendation to, “establish a per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05 or lower for all drivers who are not already required to adhere to lower BAC limits.”
According to the NTSB, their recommendation was based on findings that crash risk is elevated by the time the driver's BAC reaches 0.05% and data shows that lowering the BAC reduces accidents, injuries, and deaths.
Utah Made the First Move to Lower BACs
On December 30, 2018, Utah lowered its BAC limit from 0.08% to 0.05%. So far, the Utah Highway Patrol has reported a significant decrease in alcohol-related accidents and fatal DUI accidents.
A number of other states have considered or have lawmakers proposing laws to lower the BAC to meet the NTSB's recommendations. These states include Michigan, New York, Hawaii, California, and Washington.
Drivers in North Carolina Can Face a DUI With a BAC Under the Legal Limit
A BAC of 0.08% or higher for most drivers is enough to be convicted of drunk driving in North Carolina. However, a BAC of lower than 0.08% does not mean the driver cannot be charged with impaired driving. There are separate parts of North Carolina's DUI laws, which provide:
A person commits the offense of impaired driving if he drives any vehicle upon a highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State:
- While under the influence of an impairing substance; or
- After having consumed sufficient alcohol that he has, at any relevant time after the driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
If the prosecutor can show the driver was “under the influence of an impairing substance,” even with a BAC lower than 0.08%, the driver can be convicted of a DUI.
Lower BAC Limits Still Have Accuracy Problems
As we wrote in a prior blog, Unreliable DWI Breath Testing Can Put You in Jail. Lowering the state's BAC to 0.05% would not help innocent drivers who use an uncalibrated breath testing device that gives an inaccurate result. A driver who has one beer with dinner and has a BAC below 0.05% could test over the limit with a tainted chemical test, facing criminal charges, loss of driver's license, and higher insurance rates.
If you were arrested for drunk driving, your North Carolina DWI lawyer will make sure your rights are protected. At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped drivers and their families deal with criminal driving charges to stay out of jail and keep their driver's license. Contact us today in Shelby for a consultation.