Driving While Intoxicated with BAC 0.15

DWI/DUI with .15 Alcohol Level (BAC)

Being caught driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), also known as “drunk driving,” can have serious legal repercussions in Texas (Texas Penal Code § 49.04) and around the nation. When a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured at 0.15% or higher, they are subject to enhanced penalties for this offense. DWI with a high BAC is considered a second-degree misdemeanor rather than the typical third-degree misdemeanor for lesser offenses. Furthermore, the state’s Driver Responsibility Act imposes the maximum administrative surcharges allowed by law on drivers who have had their license reinstated after being convicted of DWI with a high BAC.

Breath and blood tests are integral components of detecting a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level when suspected of driving while impaired (DWI). A BAC level above .15% is considered an indication of high blood alcohol, with .08% commonly accepted as the legal limit across many jurisdictions. It is illegal to drive with a BAC at or above this threshold.

The consequences of a DWI with a high BAC charge can include jail time, costly fines, probation, community service hours, suspension of driver’s license, expensive license surcharge fees, and increased vehicle insurance premiums. These convictions can even negatively impact future employment opportunities or educational prospects. It is wise to be aware of these potential impacts before attempting to operate a motor vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol.

Increased Penalties for High BAC DUI

Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of 0.15% or higher is illegal in all states and comes with serious consequences for those convicted of the offense. Penalties can range from mandatory participation in a licensed program that consists of 60 hours of education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions to longer jail time, hefty fines, and a license suspension or revocation period of 10+ months. In some cases, an ignition interlock device may also be required to be installed on the offender’s vehicle for three years or longer. To avoid these penalties, it is essential to understand the legal BAC limit and stay well below it when driving. Below are penalties, by state, of high BAC DWI/DUI Convictions:

State Relevant Law BAC Level Penalties
Arizona § 28-1382 0.15 to 0.2 The judge may suspend all but 9 days of jail time with ignition interlock.
Arkansas N/A – eliminated in HB 1640 (2009)
California Vehicle Code §§ 23578, 23538, 23575 0.15 License suspension for 10 months. Restricted license after 1 month with program.
Colorado § 42-4-1307 0.15 10 days imprisonment, up to 1 year. Mandatory ignition interlock for >0.15 BAC.
Connecticut N/A – eliminated in SB 465 (2014)
Delaware Tit. 21 § 4177 0.15 First offense: 12 months revocation. ≥0.20: 24 months revocation.
District of Columbia § 50-2206.13 ≥0.20 First offense: ≥0.20 but < 0.25: 10 days. If ≥ 0.25 but < 0.30: 15 days. If ≥ 0.30: 20 days Second offense: Varies with BAC levels. Third and subsequent offenses: Varies with BAC levels.
Florida § 316.193 0.15 First offense: Not more than 9 months in jail, fine $1,000 to $2,000.
Georgia § 40-6-391.1 0.15 The court cannot accept nolo contendere plea for BAC ≥ 0.15.
Hawaii No increased penalties for high BAC offenders.
Idaho § 18-8004C ≥ 0.20 First offense with BAC ≥ 0.20: Misdemeanor – 10 days to 1 year in jail (48 consecutive hours), fine up to $2,000. Second or subsequent offense with BAC ≥ 0.20 within 10 years: Felony – 30 days to 5 years, fine up to $5,000.
Illinois Ch. 625 § 5/11-501 ≥0.16 First offense – minimum 100 hours community service/$500 fine.
Indiana § 9-30-5-1 0.15 Class A Misdemeanor – Not more than 1 year.
Iowa § 321J.2 > 0.15. First offense: Mandatory imprisonment of 48 hours and fine if BAC > 0.15.
Kansas § 8-1014 0.15 or above First offense with BAC of 0.15 or above: Mandatory license suspension for 1 year and restricted driving privileges for 1 year. Second offense: Suspension for 1 year and restricted driving privileges for 2 years.
Kentucky § 189A.010 ≥ 0.15 Enhanced mandatory incarceration for a person convicted of a drunk-driving offense if driving with BAC ≥ 0.15.
Louisiana Tit. 14 § 98.1 0.15, 0.20 ≥ 0.15 BAC: At least 48 hours without parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. ≥ 0.20 BAC: Fined between $750 and $1,000, 48 hours without parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.
Maine Tit. 29A § 2411 0.15 Generally, no imprisonment for a first offense. Mandatory 48 hours if BAC ≥ 0.15.
Maryland Transp. § 16-205.1 0.15 Ineligible for modification of license suspension or issuance of a restrictive license if BAC is 0.15 or more.
Massachusetts Ch. 90 § 24Q > 0.20 Offender must complete an assessment and alcohol treatment if BAC > 0.20 or if a repeat violation.
Michigan § 257.625 ≥ 0.17 Offenders with BAC ≥ 0.17 must install an ignition interlock device. Imprisonment up to 180 days, fine $200 to $700.
Minnesota § 169A.03 ≥ 0.16 If charged with an offense where BAC ≥ 0.16, can be released from detention only by agreeing to abstain from alcohol use and daily alcohol level monitoring.
Mississippi No increased penalties
Missouri § 577.010 0.15, 0.20 0.15 to 0.20 BAC: 2 days mandatory imprisonment. ≥ 0.20 BAC: 5 days mandatory imprisonment.
Montana § 61-8-465 0.16 First violation: Fine $1,000, imprisonment 48 hours to 1 year. Second violation: Fine $2,500, imprisonment 15 days to 1 year. Third violation: Fine $5,000, imprisonment 40 days to 1 year.
Nebraska § 60-6,197.03  ≥ 0.15 First offense with BAC ≥ 0.15: Mandatory 120 hours of community service, 1 year license suspension or revocation. Second offense within 12 years with BAC ≥ 0.15: Jail for 10 days or 240 hours of community service.
Nevada § 484C.400 0.18 Alcohol treatment mandatory for first offense if BAC ≥ 0.18.
New Hampshire § 265-A:3 0.16 Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated: BAC ≥ 0.16, Class A misdemeanor.
New Jersey § 39:4-50.17 0.15 Installation of ignition interlock mandatory for offenders with BAC of 0.15 or more.
New Mexico § 66-8-102 0.16 Aggravated driving with BAC of 0
New York Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1192 0.18 BAC > 0.18 – “Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated”: Fine $1,000 to $2,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year or both; driver’s license revocation – one year.
North Carolina § 20-179 0.15 Punishment is determined by weighing aggravating factors, including BAC ≥ 0.15.
North Dakota § 39-08-01 0.18 Mandatory pre-DWI conviction license suspension increases from 30 to 80 days for first offense.
Ohio § 4511.19 0.17 First offense with BAC ≥ 0.17: 3 consecutive days in jail or 6 consecutive days in jail with electronic monitoring.
Oklahoma Tit. 47 § 11-902 0.15 Aggravated Driving: Mandatory minimum treatment for 28 days, 480 hours of community service, ignition interlock use for a minimum of 90 days.
Oregon § 813.010 0.15 Fine of a minimum of $2,000 for driving with 0.15 percent or more by weight of alcohol in the blood.
Pennsylvania Tit. 75 § 3802 0.16 High rate of alcohol (0.10 to < 0.16): Imprisonment, fine, attendance at an alcohol highway safety school, and compliance with drug and alcohol treatment requirements.
Rhode Island § 31-27-2 0.15 First offense (BAC ≥ 0.15): Not more than 1 year, mandatory minimum fine $500, community service 20 to 60 hours.
South Carolina § 56-5-2933 0.16 First offense: Fine $1,000 or imprisonment 30 to 90 days. Second offense: Fine $3,500 to $6,500 and imprisonment 90 days to 3 years. Third offense: Fine $7,500 to $10,000 and imprisonment 6 months to 5 years.
South Dakota § 32-23-2.1 0.17 Offender with BAC 0.17 or higher may be sentenced to a 24/7 continuous sobriety monitoring program.
Tennessee § 55-10-402 0.20 Mandatory minimum jail time for first offense with BAC ≥ 0.20: 7 consecutive days.
Texas Penal Code § 49.04 0.15 If BAC > 0.15, court must order installation of ignition interlock devices for 1 year following license suspension. Class A Misdemeanor
Utah § 41-6a-505 0.16 If defendant had BAC of 0.16 or higher, court shall order treatment and ignition interlock system as a condition of probation.
Vermont Tit. 23 § 1201 0.16 Prohibits a person with BAC of 0.16 or more from driving a motor vehicle for 3 years.
Virginia § 18.2-270 0.15, 0.20 First offense for BAC ≥ 0.15 but < 0.20: Mandatory jail for 5 days; if BAC > 0.20: Mandatory jail for 10 days.
Washington § 46.61.5055 0.15 Offense with BAC ≥ 0.15: Mandatory minimum term of 2 days or not less than 30 days of electronic home monitoring.
West Virginia § 17C-5-2 0.15 Installation of ignition interlock mandatory for offender with BAC of 0.15 or more.
Wisconsin §346.65 0.17 Fines doubled for BAC 0.17 to 0.199, tripled for BAC 0.20 to 0.249, quadrupled for BAC 0.25 or above.
Wyoming § 31-5-233 0.15 First conviction: Mandatory ignition interlock for 6 months.

BAC Levels and Impairment

Different variables can influence the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream at any given time, with the primary indicator being the amount of alcohol consumed and over what span of time. Generally, the body can metabolize one standard drink of alcohol within an hour’s timeframe. Increased alcohol intake over a limited period can lead to higher concentrations in the blood. There are visible signs that can accompany rising blood alcohol levels, including impaired judgment, slowed reflexes, and impaired coordination.

BAC Level Impairment Level
0.02% Some loss of judgment and inhibition
0.05% Altered mood, reduced coordination
0.08% Impaired concentration, reasoning, and depth perception
0.10% Significant impairment in motor coordination and judgment
0.15% Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving tasks, and visual and auditory information processing

The speed at which alcohol is metabolized depends on the conditions of the body consuming it, including:

  • Body size and composition. Water dilutes alcohol concentration. So the more water in the body, the more diluted the alcohol concentration becomes. Muscle tissue contains more water than fat tissue. The bodies of larger people likely have more water and have a more diluted blood alcohol concentration than those of smaller people.
  • Food eaten. When there is food in the stomach, alcohol enters the bloodstream more slowly because digestion delays the alcohol from going into the small intestine where most of it gets absorbed. Since fatty foods take the longest to digest, they are the most effective at delaying alcohol from getting into the blood.
  • More alcohol is consumed in less time. Anyone drinking more than one standard drink an hour should expect their BAC to be increasing because the alcohol is coming in faster than the body can metabolize it.

Other factors include hormone levels, medication the person is taking, mood or fatigue level, as well as the type of drink or mixer.

High Blood Alcohol Concentration and DUI

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 13,384 fatal traffic accidents in 2021 related to alcohol impairment – a 14% increase from 2020. These figures indicate that drinking and driving is a major cause of preventable fatalities on U.S. roads, accounting for 30% of all traffic deaths. Motorcyclists are particularly impacted by this phenomenon, as they are most at risk of dying in an alcohol-related crash.

67% of these alcohol-impaired accidents involved at least one driver with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at or above 0.15%. As a result, many states have taken steps to deter high BAC driving with harsher punishments for those convicted of this offense. – Crash Stats NHTSA

Most states now consider a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.15% or higher to be dangerously high. People who operate motor vehicles with such levels of impairment are more likely to cause fatal accidents and, as such, face additional penalties from the law.

Texas, California, and Florida topped the list for the states with the most traffic fatalities where BAC was 0.15% or greater. However, Rhode Island had the highest percentage of traffic fatalities in this category (30%), demonstrating the need for stricter regulations across all states. Newer laws strive to protect all road users by imposing more severe consequences for those found guilty of driving with a high blood alcohol content.

Do you know your BAC?
Do you know your BAC? BAC level chart via emory.edu

Impairment Associated with High BAC

At a BAC of 0.15%, drivers will experience significant loss in muscle control, balance, and coordination, making it difficult for them to walk and talk properly and rendering their ability to make sound judgments unreliable. When the BAC reaches 0.16-0.20%, confusion and uncontrolled movements can occur, often accompanied by feelings of dizziness or nausea.

Between 0.21 and 0.30%, it is not uncommon for people to fall repeatedly and need help standing up. At this level, pain ceases to be felt and long periods of blacking out will likely occur—often accompanied by vomiting.

When the BAC reaches 0.31 to 0.40%, the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream is nearing a lethal level, and individuals may pass out completely. Coma and death can follow correspondingly soon after this point has been reached.

Consequences of DUI with over BAC 0.15

Driving while impaired is a serious crime that poses a grave risk to public safety. Since the 1980s, strengthened enforcement of drunk-driving laws has had an important role in lowering the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving. Penalties for impaired driving can range from misdemeanors to felonies and may include revocation of driver’s license, fines, and jail time. It can also be incredibly expensive; a single offense can cost the offender up to $10,000 in legal fees and fines.

DUI Maximum Penalties And How An Attorney Can Help You
DUI Maximum Penalties And How An Attorney Can Help You infographic via donhammondlaw.com

In many cases, offenders must purchase and install ignition interlock devices at their own expense. An ignition interlock device is connected to a vehicle’s ignition and requires the driver to blow into the device before starting the car. This breath test will register any BAC above .02 g/dL, which is usually pre-set as the lower limit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration strongly endorses the addition of these devices, recognizing them as a reliable way to prevent intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel.

Should You Hire a DWI Lawyer?

Absolutely. Hiring a DWI lawyer is essential if you face a misdemeanor or felony charge, as it can bring serious penalties related to your driving privileges and personal life. Such penalties may include license suspension or revocation, as well as a criminal record.

DUI charges can be intimidating and complex to face on your own, but you don’t have to go through it alone. An experienced attorney can make a significant difference in the severity of penalties you may face for convictions, so consider reaching out for help. With legal expertise in defense arguments, paperwork forms, evidence evaluation, and courtroom representation, an attorney can make a stressful situation much easier to handle.

An experienced DUI attorney is especially well-versed in your local jurisdiction’s driving under the influence laws and can effectively represent you in court, potentially even reducing some of your penalties. If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, the court will provide you with a public defender free of charge.

Be sure to stay in close contact with your public defender in order to keep up with progress and determine what you can do to assist them. With appropriate legal assistance, you may be able to lessen or avoid the repercussions of your charge.

FAQs on High BAC Levels

How is BAC measured?

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is determined by a breathalyzer test or a blood test. A breathalyzer measures alcohol levels that have been absorbed into the bloodstream from recent consumption, while a blood test for BAC can determine both current and past drinking habits.

How many drinks is 0.08 alcohol level?

The legal limit in the United States is 0.08%. This equates to about 4 standard drinks consumed within 2 hours for an average adult weighing 180 pounds. However, individual body type and metabolism can have a large impact on how quickly someone processes alcohol, so every person’s situation should be taken into consideration.

BAC Calculator Chart | Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels
What is a Standard Drink?

What is a .08 blood alcohol concentration?

A 0.08 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level is the legal limit of intoxication in the United States. At this level, it is illegal to operate a vehicle or other machinery. It means that 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100ml of blood has been consumed within two hours.

 What is a high BAC?

BAC levels over 0.20% are considered to be dangerously high and can lead to unconsciousness or even death.

How many drinks is 0.2 BAC?

A 0.2 BAC level is equivalent to approximately 10 drinks consumed within 2 hours for an average adult weighing 180 pounds.

How many drinks is 0.10 BAC?

A 0.10 BAC level is equivalent to approximately 5 drinks consumed within 2 hours for an average adult weighing 180 pounds.

How many drinks is 0.05 BAC?

A 0.05 BAC level is equivalent to approximately 2 drinks consumed within 2 hours for an average adult weighing 180 pounds.

How long does it take to get to 0.00 BAC?

It typically takes 2-3 hours for the average adult weighing 180 pounds to reach a 0.00 BAC level, depending on factors such as gender, age, weight, and amount of food consumed prior to drinking. It is important to note that the rate at which any individual processes alcohol may vary greatly, so it is best to err on the side of caution when consuming alcoholic beverages.

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