According to DWI law in Minnesota and all other states, it is considered unlawful for you to operate, drive, or be in physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. It is not necessary that the DWI suspect show signs of impairment. As long as it can be proven that your BAC level is above the legal limit, then you may be arrested for DWI.
However, you may think that blowing below .08 percent in a breathalyzer test means that you are completely safe from incurring a DWI charge. Unknown to many, motorists with a BAC lower than the legal limit can still be prosecuted and convicted of DWI if law enforcement/the prosecutor can show that they were too impaired to drive or under the influence of alcohol when stopped. This may depend on certain circumstances, of course, such as if you failed the field sobriety tests or displayed behavior or signs consistent with impairment.
An Oregon driver, for instance, only blew .07 percent on the breathalyzer test, but failed three field sobriety tests and even answered his mobile phone while talking to a law enforcement official. The jury unanimously convicted him of DWI after a two-day trial.
In Minnesota, one situation where you may be charged with DWI with a BAC below the legal limit is if you are caught driving under the influence of drugs or controlled substances. This would be in violation of the state’s law as such, and will thus result in an automatic DWI—regardless of your BAC.
There are also other specific instances in Minnesota DWI laws where lower BAC limits are defined, particularly for underage drivers and commercial drivers.
Minors or individuals below 21 years of age may be charged with underage drinking and driving if they are caught driving a vehicle with a BAC below .08 percent. In fact, the state’s laws on underage drinking consider it illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to get behind the wheel with absolutely any amount of alcohol in their system. The penalties for underage drink driving may be harsher, depending on the severity of the offense, the number of times an alcohol-related offense has been committed, and the driver’s BAC.
Commercial drivers in Minnesota are also held to a different legal standard compared to other drivers on the road. Any individual operating a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 percent or higher may be arrested for DWI. Failing to submit to a chemical test may also lead to the commercial driver facing a DWI.
All throughout the country, police officers are also cracking down on drivers who blow below the legal limit due to the legalization of marijuana use in some states. Breathalyzers may not be able to pick up during traces of drugs during the breath test, but marijuana and other drugs may cause serious impairment when coupled with alcohol use.
If you are facing a potential DWI charge, it is crucial that you seek competent DWI counsel right away–whether you were below or above the legal limit of .08 percent.