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Underage drivers have a different BAC limit

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2023 | DWI

In Texas, most drivers have the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08%. If a driver takes a breath test and breaks this limit, the court can presume that the driver is impaired. With that said, it is possible for a driver to incur DWI charges even if they’re under the legal limit, if they manifest impairment in other ways, but testing this legal limit is most often used to prove impairment in drunk driving cases.

It’s important for all motorists over the age of 20 to understand and honor this limit. But, it’s also important for young drivers to remember that, if they’re under 21 years old, they do not have the same BAC limit as all other non-commercial drivers. Their limit is much lower, as the law says they can be arrested for “any detectable amount” of alcohol. If they take a test and their BAC is just 0.02%, for instance, they could still face arrest even though they are well below the traditional limit of 0.08%.

Why is the limit different for particularly young motorists?

The difference here is whether or not the driver is legally allowed to drink. If someone is 21 or older, it is legal for them to drink as long as they don’t drive while they’re impaired. This is why a higher limit is used, to check for impairment itself.

But if someone is 20 years old or younger, they are not allowed to drink lawfully in most states. They can’t buy alcohol. They are not supposed to possess or consume it. As such, a breath test that detects any amount of alcohol demonstrates that a young driver has already broken the law.

One important thing for these drivers to keep in mind is that this means they could be arrested even after having less than a full drink. Someone may just have half a drink before deciding to leave a social gathering, or they could consume a spiked drink without knowing it. These could still trigger a positive BAC test, which could lead to an arrest. Under such circumstances, seeking legal guidance as soon as possible is wise.