Can You Be Charged with DUI if Your BAC is Under 0.08 Percent?

Categories: dwi/owi

blood alcohol content

DUI or OWI in Wisconsin? Experienced Attorney in Wausua Can Help Protect You

Most people are aware of the 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) standard for drunk driving. This is the “legal limit,” and anyone who is pulled over while driving with a BAC above 0.08 percent can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

But, far fewer people are aware of the fact that you do not need to be above the legal limit in order to be charged with an alcohol-related offense. In Wisconsin, you can be arrested for operating while under the influence (OWI) regardless of your BAC.

Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence (OWI)

While most states’ laws use the terms “driving under the influence” (DUI) and “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), Wisconsin law establishes two separate drunk driving-related offenses:

  • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OWI)
  • Prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC)

It is OWI that can be charged even without a BAC above the legal limit. Wisconsin’s OWI law states:

“No person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while: (a) Under the influence of an intoxicant . . . to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving, or under the combined influence of an intoxicant and any other drug to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving.”

You will notice that the law does not say anything about blood alcohol content. If your consumption of alcohol renders you “incapable of safely driving,” this is enough to support an OWI charge without even testing your BAC. (Of course, the arresting officer typically will test your BAC under Wisconsin’s “implied consent” law, and if your BAC is above 0.08 percent, you can be charged with OWI and PAC.)

How do the police determine if you are “incapable of safely driving”? One of the most common ways is to perform the standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) on the side of the road. If the officer claims that you were weaving, failing to maintain a consistent speed, or following too closely, these assertions could all be used as evidence in your OWI case, as well.

“Zero Tolerance” for Drivers Under Age 21

For drivers under the age of 21, Wisconsin’s “zero tolerance” law means that any BAC over 0.00 can result in charges for drunk driving. The law states:

“If a person has not attained the legal drinking age . . . the person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle while he or she has an alcohol concentration of more than 0.0 but not more than 0.08.”

While a first-time OWI or PAC charge can have serious consequences for all drivers, those who are under the legal drinking age can face additional consequences that make it particularly important to seek experienced legal representation.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

Have You Been Charged with OWI? Speak with a Defense Attorney at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C.

The defense attorneys at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. provide experienced legal representation for individuals facing OWI and PAC charges in Wausau, WI. To learn more about the defenses you may have available, call us at (715) 842-2291 or request a confidential consultation online today.