Every year, thousands of drivers in Rhode Island are arrested for having a blood alcohol content that is above the legal limit of .08. For those who are convicted of DUI, we’ve previously discussed the many fines and penalties they face. Less discussed and clear are the laws surrounding buzzed driving and drivers who register BACs of less than .08.

Many drivers in Rhode Island would likely admit to getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having one or two alcoholic beverages. In truth, many factors influence how an individual metabolizes and reacts to alcohol including gender, weight, food consumption, type of alcohol ingested, overall mood, medications, illness and tolerance.

In the event a driver is pulled over by a police officer for suspicion of drunk driving, an officer is likely to administer a series of standard field sobriety tests which require that a driver stand on one leg, walk and turn in a straight line and look into a penlight. Depending on how an individual performs or his or her admissions of ingesting alcohol, an officer may choose to administer a Breathalyzer test.

While .08 is widely regarded as the illegal drunk driving threshold, it’s important to note that a police officer can arrest and charge an individual who registers a BAC below .08 with DUI. This is true in cases where an officer believes that an individual is impaired to the degree that he or she is “incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.”

In cases where an individual is arrested for DUI after having a couple of drinks, but registers a BAC under .08 and does not believe that he or she was impaired, it’s important to discuss one’s case with a defense attorney.

Source: Rhode Island Bar Association, “Driving Under the Influence: What constitutes driving under the influence?,” July 28, 2015