Legal Alcohol Limits: How “Per Se” DUI Laws Affect Your Case
In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC higher than .08. The DUI laws themselves vary from state to state. Some have placed time frames during which you can’t be at or above a certain alcohol level. For example, in Arizona, it’s a crime if you have a BAC at or greater than .08 within 2 hours of driving., Whether the law in your state indicates “at the time of driving” or within a certain time of driving, the concept is basically the same - it is illegal and a separate crime to drink and drive with a BAC higher than a certain amount (usually .08), regardless of your level of impairment.
What does that mean for you? This means the prosecution will not have to prove that you were driving erratically or even in a manner that suggested impairment. If they have admissible evidence that shows your BAC level was .08 or higher, then that fact is evidence of your guilt. In order to challenge the BAC evidence in your BAC case you must attack the reliability of test.
Per se laws result in administrative DUI license suspensions. The “per se” or legal alcohol limit in most states is also tied to a potential administrative drivers license suspension (typically called “admin per se”). The BAC result higher than .08 will be used and relied upon by the DMV of your state, and they will automatically issue a license suspension based upon the evidence. It is then up to you to timely request an administrative review hearing (usually within 10 to 30 days of your arrest) to get an opportunity to fight the test and get your license suspension overturned.
The per se laws also mean that you may find yourself facing multiple DUI charges - one for DUI (impaired to the slightest degree) and one for DUI per se (having an alcohol level of 0.080 or more). You may be thinking, wait a minute, what about double jeopardy? Most states do allow multiple charges, but not multiple convictions. In the states that do allow multiple convictions stemming from the same incident, they will only allow you to be punished for one. This is troubling, however, as you will have the convictions on your record and the social stigma attached to them may be devastating to your career, reputation, and future.
Per se laws are harsh, and each year state legislators and the police are becoming more and more conservative. The best way to avoid a DUI is to never drive at all after drinking. The next best way to avoid a DUI arrest or conviction is to educate yourself about the laws in your state. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and the best way to start fighting your DUI is with knowledge, preparation, and consultation with an experienced attorney.