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Can Driving at a Legal BAC Level Be a Factor in a Crash?

By Butler Prather LLP on September 14, 2022

The maximum allowable blood alcohol content (BAC) level in Georgia is .08%. Any person operating at this level or above could be arrested and charged with drunk driving. However, there are situations where individuals can be charged with DUI even if they are below the legal limit of alcohol in their system. The term DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” so any person found to be under the influence of any substance, regardless of their blood alcohol content level, could be charged with DUI.

Impaired Driving Means Many Things

In the state of Georgia, we can see that Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(1) states that a person shall not “drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.”

You will notice that in this definition of impairment, the actual blood alcohol content percentage is not present. Police officers in the state of Georgia are trained to recognize impaired drivers in a variety of ways, and a blood alcohol content measure is only part of the process. Police officers are trained to look at the behavior of drivers, both before they pull them over as well as after they pull them over, including how the person handles field sobriety tests and answers basic questions on the roadside.

The most common reason that individuals are stopped for suspected DUI is that an officer observes various other violations, including improper lane changes, equipment violations, speeding, and more. Upon approaching the vehicle and speaking to a driver, officers may notice that the driver is slurring their speech or has bloodshot eyes. Officers may even see open containers in the vehicle that leads them to suspect that a person has been drinking and driving.

Police officers in Georgia can certainly arrest any person they suspect is impaired by alcohol or drugs, even if a roadside blood alcohol content measure does not show that a person is at or above the legal limit. Additionally, there are situations where a person may be above the legal limit to drive but then later test below the legal limit at the police station. That does not necessarily mean that a person was not impaired at the time the initial traffic stop occurred.

The number one priority for police officers is ensuring that the roadways are safe, and this means removing suspected impaired drivers from the street.

Actually proving that a person was impaired at the time of traffic stop occurred and gaining a conviction for DUI can be more challenging if a person was not over the legal limit. However, Georgia has something called a “DUI Less Safe” statute, which means drivers can be convicted of DUI even if their blood alcohol content level is below .08%. This statute is intended to criminalize impairment regardless of what a person is under the influence of, whether it be alcohol, prescription narcotics, over-the-counter medication, illegal narcotics, toxic vapors, and more.

Accidents With Impairment Below the Legal Limit

If you or somebody you know has been injured in an accident caused by a driver that was impaired by alcohol or drugs, but they were technically below the legal limit, they may still be held responsible for their actions. Any suspected impairment will play a role in a personal injury claim. Insurance carriers or a personal injury jury will be able to take this into account when considering whether or not to pay compensation to crash victims. They may learn about the suspected impairment or the DUI charge by examining accident reports or actual arrest and conviction records related to the incident. Our Atlanta car accident lawyers can help.

Posted in: Car Accidents

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