Where Did the .08 BAC Legal Limit Come From?

By December 10, 2015Thomas Law Firm

When you are pulled over and blow a .08 BAC or above, regardless of your symptoms of inebriation, you will be charged with DUI “per se.” This is a separate charge from a standard DUI, though often the two go hand-in-hand. But where did this .08 figure come from, and is it an accurate indicator of inebriation?

In the 1980s, the anti-drunk driving advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) engaged in a national fight to strengthen what it regarded as lax drunk driving laws in many states. Pressure from MADD convinced a few scientists to support a limit of .10 for alcohol in the blood before a person is considered under the influence. Beyond that, the groups reasoned, it should not need to be proven that a person was actually inebriated; the alcohol in the person’s blood says enough.

Over time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) settled on the lower limit of .08 and threatened to retract federal transportation funds for any state that did not create a separate DUI per se law.

Is .08 BAC Too Arbitrary?

One argument that people have made over the years is that a definitive .08 BAC reading to determine intoxication is inaccurate, given that alcohol affects everyone differently. This is similar to arguments about Colorado’s THC legal limit of .05 nanograms per milliliter of blood for drugged driving: the argument that just because someone is above the limit does not mean they are unsafe to drive. Variability in the rates of absorption and metabolism as well as tolerance built up over a lifetime of drinking can mean that someone who blows a .08 is not actually inebriated, but as far as the law is concerned, these arguments are ignored.

At Thomas Law Firm, we have the knowledge and experience of a 28 attorney law firm to handle your drunk driving defense case.

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