Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a measure of how much alcohol is in an individual's blood. Every state has passed DUI and DWI laws stating that a BAC level of at least a 0.08 or more is per se illegal. Many states have also written additional laws that impose enhanced or additional sanctions for drivers with exceptionally high BAC levels.

What Is Considered a High BAC Level?

What is considered a high BAC will vary, but the range is usually between 0.15 to 0.20. States that have enacted high BAC level statutes or rules typically impose enhanced or additional penalties for DUI suspects.

What Kind of Enhanced Penalties Are Imposed under High BAC Laws?

Just like the level deemed "high," the types of sanctions for high BAC offenders will vary. Below are a few examples from populous states.

  • California: High BAC is 0.15 or greater
    • Courts may consider high BAC as a special factor in imposing enhanced sanctions and deciding whether or not to grant probation
    • Courts may consider high BAC in ordering an ignition interlock
    • High BAC offenders must participate in longer education programs before their licenses can be reinstated
  • Florida: High BAC is 0.15 or greater
    • Courts may consider high BAC as a special factor in imposing enhanced fines and jail time
    • If the DUI offender has a BAC greater than 0.20, the judge cannot accept a guilty plea to a lesser offense offered by the prosecution.
  • Illinois: High BAC is 0.16 or greater
    • High BAC offenders must participate in longer education and treatment programs before license can be reinstated
  • New York: New York does not punish enhanced BAC levels
    • No enhanced sanctions for high BAC offenders beyond normal DUI sanctions
  • Texas: High BAC is 0.15 or greater.
    • Offenders face up to 1 year in jail, roughly 6 months longer than the maximum DUI sentence.

What Should I Do If I Am Arrested for Drunk Driving DUI/DWI?

If you are arrested for drunk driving, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. An attorney will be able to inform you of your rights, what options you may have, any possible defenses, and what to expect as you are going through this difficult and serious process.