Most people are aware that the anyone over a .08 blood alcohol content is considered over the legal limit in North Carolina. However, many people will likely be surprised to know that even when under the legal limit, they could still find themselves charged with DWI. This is because, as one sheriff’s deputy explains, the state has a “two-pronged law.”
This allows law enforcement officers to consider other factors when making an arrest related to drug or alcohol consumption. If the officer feels that that a driver is appreciably, or noticeably, impaired, that person could still be arrested and charged even with a BAC lower than .08. The sheriff’s deputy provides the example of someone who does not regularly drink and, therefore, may feel the effects of alcohol more strongly than someone who does.
A DWI charge does not only involve alcohol, though. In fact, a person who has taken a legally prescribed drug could face a charge if an officer feels that the prescription, in combination with alcohol, has resulted in impairment even if BAC levels are lower than legal limits. Troopers and officers often use several observations to determine the person’s level of impairment; they look for slurred speech, disheveled clothing, bloodshot eyes and whether the driver struggles with balance upon exiting a vehicle, for examples. Then a field sobriety test will be administered.
Everyone recognizes the potential dangers of DWI. However, some of the measures used to determine impairment in North Carolina — especially for someone with a BAC lower than .08 — may be the result of subjective interpretations. To respond to such allegations, it may be helpful for those accused to have an experienced criminal defense attorney carefully examine the details of their case.