We Fight To Protect Your Rights

A closer look at the legal blood alcohol limit

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | CRIMINAL LAW - Drunk Driving

Alcohol intoxication can severely impair driving, endangering the driver and anyone else on or near the road. This is why driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense in Maryland and in other U.S. states.

But how exactly can a police officer determine if a driver is drunk?

To find out if someone is intoxicated enough, police officers use chemical tests to measure the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level. This blog will discuss all there is to BAC, including at which level is a person considered legally drunk, and the varying BAC limits for certain drivers.

What is BAC?

BAC is a measurement of alcohol intoxication, expressed as mass of alcohol per volume of blood. When you drink alcoholic drinks, the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream, traveling to your liver where it’s broken down. But if you drink faster than your liver can process the alcohol, your BAC increases and you’ll start to feel the effects of intoxication.

For instance, if someone has a BAC of 0.0%, they’re perfectly sober. At BAC .01% to .05%, a person’s judgment and sense of coordination are impaired. When a person’s BAC hits .08%, their self-control, reasoning and memory start taking hits.

In Maryland and other U.S. states, the legal limit for BAC is .08%. Drivers who hit the limit or above can face DUI charges.

Special BAC limits

While .08% is the standard legal limit for BAC, drivers under 21 and commercial drivers are subject to even lower limits. The limit for drivers is BAC .04%, because they’re expected to stay sober during their work. Meanwhile, there’s a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21, meaning any BAC amount in their system will trigger a DUI.

The legal consequences of DUI

Exceeding the legal BAC limit can result in a DUI charge, carrying severe penalties. These can include fines, license suspension, and even jail time. For a first offense, drivers face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Repeat offenders face stiffer penalties.

Knowing Maryland’s BAC limits is a key part of being a responsible driver. Always designate a sober driver or arrange for alternative transportation if you plan to drink. If you face DUI charges, a legal professional experienced in criminal defense may be able to guide you through the hearing process and protect your rights.