While a drunk driving charge does not necessarily hinge on a driver’s blood alcohol content, it does play a major role. BAC is generally measured in two different ways — by a Breathalyzer test or a blood draw. North Carolina drivers are expected to submit to testing when asked, as having a driver’s license involves something called implied consent.

Implied consent means that when a driver acquires the privilege to drive a vehicle on North Carolina highways and roads, he or she has given consent to BAC testing if a police officer has reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence. BAC testing usually follows field sobriety testing, which is a series of physical tasks that an officer asks a driver to perform. A driver may also choose to refuse testing, although there may be steep penalties for refusing any BAC testing.

The legal limit for operating a vehicle is .08. A driver whose BAC is at or above this limit is considered intoxicated without the need for any additional proof. However, that same driver could also be arrested with a BAC of .06 if there is other proof of intoxication, such as swerving between lanes. BAC limits are different for drivers younger than 21, too. North Carolina has a zero policy tolerance for underage drinking and driving. An underage driver with only trace amounts of alcohol in his or her system — like .01 — can be arrested.

The severity of a driver’s charge may also hinge on his or her BAC. An exceptionally high BAC may lead to more serious charges with steeper penalties. Defending one’s self against a DWI charge is essential for minimizing potential legal consequences and protecting driving privileges, so a defendant may want to consider the benefits of criminal defense planning in as timely a manner as possible.