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My BAC was under .08! Why was I arrested?

Like many other Texans, you may be under the impression that you can only be arrested for drunk driving if your blood alcohol concentration is .08 or higher. That isn't always the case. Your BAC does bolster other evidence of impairment observed and obtained by law enforcement officials, but it is not the only indicator of impairment.

In fact, an officer may believe these indicators provide enough "evidence" to establish the probable cause needed to arrest you. This is because researchers have proved that alcohol can impair your ability to safely operate a vehicle even at levels below .08.

That 'buzz' could attract the fuzz

When you drink alcohol, it ends up going directly into your bloodstream through your stomach and small intestine. It ends up in your liver, which metabolizes it. However, this process takes time, and when you drink faster than your body can get rid of it, you may get a buzz and decide that it's time to call it a night before you believe you won't be able to drive.

If you happen to take a turn too wide, swerve over the dotted lines or drive just a bit too fast, an officer may stop you. If the officer suspects that you drank any alcohol and then got behind the wheel of your car, he or she may not be able to use your breath test as probable cause for an arrest because it's less than .08.

However, the officer may ask you to participate in field sobriety tests and may rely on other so-called indications of impairment, such as the smell of alcohol on your breath or slurred words, to substantiate an arrest.

So, what do I do next?

It may not be in your best interest to simply plead guilty since the long-term consequences of that plea could complicate your personal and professional lives. How you were driving prior to the traffic stop, field sobriety tests and other observations by the officer may be enough for an arrest, but they may not be enough for a conviction.

You can still challenge the charges, especially if your BAC was not above the legal limit. Field sobriety tests and the observations of an officer are both subjective. You may also question the reason for the original traffic stop. For instance, speeding does not necessarily equal drunk driving. A review of all circumstances leading up to your arrest may provide clues to a viable defense.

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