When the DWI laws were first explained to you, you were likely told about the BAC limit in New York. For most drivers, the limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. There are different limits for commercial drivers and very young drivers, but most people fall into this category.
What this means is that taking a breath test and getting a 0.08% or higher can be used as evidence that you deserve a DWI conviction. If you take the case to court, the police will present the results of this test, and the judge can then rule that you were legally intoxicated. They are allowed to presume impairment after this point, no matter how you felt at the time.
But does this mean that the opposite is also true, and that the key to avoiding a DWI charge is just to stay under that legal limit? If you take a breath test and it comes in anywhere below the limit, does that mean you’re automatically protected and that the officer is not allowed to claim impairment?
Impairment cannot be assumed, but may still exist
This is actually something of a myth. It is true that the court cannot assume intoxication if it turns out that your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit. You may not have been impaired, and you may only have had a drink.
However, the officer can certainly still claim that you were impaired and give you a DWI charge, no matter what your BAC is. If this gets to court, then the officer is obligated to produce some other type of evidence that shows you were impaired despite your BAC reading. For instance, they may have video of you acting intoxicated at the scene or you may have caused a car accident that they claim was because you made mistakes due to your level of impairment.
Of course, you can see quickly how a case like this could become complicated. You absolutely need to know about all of your legal defense options, as it is not nearly as open and shut of a case as it would be with a very high BAC reading.