", by 
Licensed under 
CC BY 2.0

DUI Under Legal Limit

When it comes to drinking and driving, there is a legal limit or set limit for impairment based on blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, it's important to note that you can still be arrested and charged with a DUI even if your BAC is under the legal limit. This article aims to provide clear knowledge of the legal limit for driving under the influence in California, how individuals can still face a DUI charge with a BAC below the legal limit, and how penal codes apply in DUI cases under the legal limit.

Legal Limit for Drinking and Driving: 

In California, the legal limit for most drivers is a BAC of 0.08%. This means that if a driver's BAC is 0.08% or higher, they are considered legally impaired and can be arrested for a DUI. However, it's crucial to understand that impairment can occur at lower BAC levels, and law enforcement officers have the discretion to arrest individuals with a BAC below the legal limit if they exhibit signs of impairment.

DUI Charges with BAC Under the Legal Limit: 

It is possible to be charged with a DUI in California even if your BAC is below the legal limit. Law enforcement officers consider various factors when determining if someone is driving under the influence, including physical appearance, behavior, field sobriety test results, and observations of driving patterns. If an officer believes that a driver's ability to operate a vehicle is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, they can still make an arrest and pursue DUI charges, regardless of the BAC reading.

Factors Considered in DUI Arrests: 

Law enforcement officers rely on their training and experience to identify signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, unsteady gait, an odor of alcohol, or erratic driving behavior. They also administer field sobriety tests, such as the walk-and-turn test or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, to assess a driver's coordination and mental alertness. Even if a driver's BAC is below the legal limit, the presence of other evidence suggesting impairment can lead to a DUI arrest and charges.

Penal Codes for DUI Under the Legal Limit: 

In California, DUI offenses are governed by various penal codes. While the legal limit is an important factor, other penal codes come into play for DUI cases with a BAC below 0.08%. For example, Penal Code 23152(a) prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, regardless of the BAC level. This means that if an individual's driving ability is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, they can be charged with a DUI, irrespective of their BAC reading.

Challenging DUI Charges with BAC Under the Legal Limit: 

If you are facing a DUI charge with a BAC below the legal limit, it is crucial to build a strong defense with the help of a skilled DUI attorney. Some possible defense strategies include challenging the officer's observations, disputing the accuracy of field sobriety tests, questioning the calibration and accuracy of a breathalyzer or blood tests, or presenting evidence of alternative explanations for observed impairment, such as fatigue or medication side effects.

Consulting with a DUI Defense Attorney: 

When facing a DUI charge, whether your BAC is above or below the legal limit, consulting with a reputable DUI defense attorney is essential. They will review the specifics of your case, analyze the evidence, and develop a strategic defense tailored to your circumstances. A knowledgeable attorney will navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case.


While the legal limit for driving under the influence in California is a BAC of 0.08%, it is important to understand that individuals can still be arrested and charged with a DUI even if their BAC is below the legal limit. The determination of impairment is not solely based on the BAC reading but takes into account other factors such as physical appearance, behavior, and performance on field sobriety tests.

H Law Group Online

Legal Tips straight to your inbox!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.