There tends to be confusion around how much a person can drink before they are legally impaired. Friends may misquote the law or give bad advice in an attempt to explain DUI laws.
Let’s go through the facts together.
What is BAC?
First, we have to understand how alcohol levels are measured. Blood alcohol content (BAC) is the measurement of alcohol in a person’s blood. The test measures the amount of alcohol, in grams, in every 100 milliliters of blood. For example, a .08 BAC is .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
Breath alcohol content (BrAC) is a measurement of alcohol in a person’s breath. This can also be used to calculate the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. Many people are familiar with a “breathalyzer.” This test measures the amount of alcohol, in grams, in 210 liters of breath. A BrAC measurement of .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath is the same as a BAC of .08.
Legal limits in Texas
Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code makes it illegal for any person to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. Texas law defines intoxicated as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body” or having a BAC of .08 or more.
What does this mean?
There are 2 parts to Texas’ DWI law. The first part is when a person drives while intoxicated. It does not require specific alcohol content, just that the state shows the person did not have “normal use of mental or physical faculties,” and that alcohol caused the lack of normal use.
Some people believe that they cannot be arrested for DWI so long as they are under a specific limit. The truth is a person can be intoxicated at lower than the legal limit.
The second part is the alcohol content presumption. In Texas, a person is said to be intoxicated if their alcohol concentration is .08 or higher. This is the level where a person is too drunk to drive. This legal limit is a little misleading. Most people think the legal limit is a “benchmark” of when they will be arrested for DWI. But, as stated above, a person can still be arrested—even if under the legal limit.
In Texas, a person with an alcohol concentration of .15 or higher commits a higher-level offense. A person found driving at a .08 BAC faces 3-180 days in jail and a fine as high as $2,000. A person with a BAC of .15 faces 1 year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
Driving while impaired is not only dangerous but also illegal. If you are caught in Texas driving while over the legal limit, you face both jail time and an expensive fine.