You know that you can get a DUI if you break the legal limit, which is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% for most drivers. If the police pull you over and give you a breath test -- or arrest you and then perform a blood test -- you can face charges for driving with an excessive amount of alcohol in your system.
But do you have to break the legal limit to get a DUI? Does that mean you can't get one as long as you do not go over 0.08%?
It does not. You can get a DUI under 0.08%, and this happens to people all the time.
The key is to remember that the police just need to see that the alcohol impaired your ability to drive. If it did, then you can get charged with driving under the influence. It doesn't matter how much you had to drink to feel that influence.
The legal limit just helps the police because you are presumed to be intoxicated at that point, no matter what. The blood test or breath test can stand on its own in court. If your BAC is under 0.08%, that's when the police need to present more evidence showing that you were impaired. They can still give you a DUI, but it may be harder for them to get the charges to stick. That does not mean it is impossible.
If you do get arrested with a BAC that is under the legal limit, it's critical that you understand exactly what the law says and what legal defense options you have.