Your blood alcohol content, known as “BAC”, is the determining factor in whether you are legally intoxicated. If you are found to be over the BAC limits, you may be charged with drunk driving. In 2019 in just the state of Texas, there were 10,175 crashes involving driving under the influence. Of those, 788 of the crashes resulted in the death of 886 people.

By letting you know the BAC limits of each state, we are not condoning the practice of drinking and driving, but are notifying you of the law. If you receive charges for driving while intoxicated, it is advisable to contact an attorney who specializes in alcohol-related offenses immediately for the best possible outcome.

State by State Rules

Before 1998, each state set its standards for what level of blood alcohol designated intoxication.  President Bill Clinton felt that there should be a national standard for legal intoxication, with a BAC of 0.08% being the recommendation. If your BAC was at or over 0.08%, you could be charged with intoxication.

In 2001 the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act (HR4475) set forth standards that any state that did not enact a 0.08% BAC law would begin to lose highway construction funds. That bill was successful, and every state now has a .08% BAC level law.

Some states have additional standards regarding intoxication.  This includes different standards for minors who drive under the influence or drivers who have an exceptionally high BAC.

States With Additional BAC Limits Laws

BAC limitsEach state establishes its laws and penalties for driving drunk. When the BAC reaches an exceptionally high level, the penalties become more severe. This may include suspension or revoking your driver’s license, jail time, and expensive fines and penalties.

In all fifty states, you are considered to be intoxicated with a BAC level of 0.08%. Michigan coined the term “super drunk” in 2010 when they enacted a new level of penalties for those with an alcohol content of 0.17% or more.

No other state uses that term, but most have penalties for higher levels of intoxication. Zero tolerance means no alcohol in your system. Below are the levels bearing additional penalties and the alcohol limit for those under age 21.

BAC Limit by State

Alabama—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Alaska—0.15%; zero tolerance

Arizona—0.15%; zero tolerance

Arkansas—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

California—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Colorado—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Connecticut—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

Delaware—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

Washington D.C.—0.25%; zero tolerance

Florida—0.20%; under 21 is 0.02%

Georgia—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Hawaii—15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Idaho—0.20%; under 21 is 0.02%

Illinois—0.16%; zero tolerance

Indiana—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Iowa—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Kansas—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Kentucky—0.18%; under 21 is 0.02%

Louisiana—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Maine—0.15%; zero tolerance

Maryland—no high BAC; under 21 is 0.02%

Massachusetts—0.20%; under 21 is 0.02%

Michigan—0.17%; under 21 is 0.02%

Minnesota—0.16%; zero tolerance

Mississippi—no high BAC; under 21 is 0.02%

Missouri—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Montana—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

Nebraska—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

New Hampshire—0.16; under 21 is 0.02%

New Jersey—0.10%; under 21 is 0.01%

New Mexico—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

New York—0.18%; under 21 is 0.02%

North Carolina—0.15%; zero tolerance

North Dakota—0.18%; under 21 is 0.02%

Ohio—0.17%; under 21 is 0.02%

Oklahoma—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Oregon—0.15%; zero tolerance

Pennsylvania—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

Rhode Island—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

South Carolina—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

South Dakota—0.17%; under 21 is 0.02%

Tennessee—0.20%; under 21 is 0.02%

Texas—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Utah—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

Vermont—0.16%; under 21 is 0.02%

Virginia—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Washington—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

West Virginia—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Wisconsin—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

Wyoming—0.15%; under 21 is 0.02%

States frequently revise their laws, and it is always possible the above may change.

The Penalties

BAC limitsWhile the minimum federal level of intoxication is 0.08%, the penalties for violating the law are left to the states to determine. You have a much better chance of receiving lenience on your first offense. If you are a repeat offender, the penalties will be harsher.

If you receive your first offense in Connecticut, California, or Indiana, you will be charged, but there is no incarceration upon conviction. A first offense conviction in Arizona, Georgia, or Tennessee results in mandatory jail time. In Wisconsin, a first-time conviction is not a crime but a civil infraction.

In addition to drunk driving, you may also be charged with public intoxication. In Texas, Penal Code, §49.02 sets forth that if you appear intoxicated in a public location, including a bar, you may incur a misdemeanor charge. That crime carries the possibility of a $500 fine.

The state of Texas has steep penalties for driving under the influence, whether in a car, boat, or flying.

There is also a state fine of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000 upon sentencing, plus additional penalties if you have a child or an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. If driving intoxicated with a passenger under the age of 15, it is considered a state jail felony. You may also be charged with an alcohol offense for assembling or operating an amusement park ride under the influence.

Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony, and intoxication assault is a third-degree felony. While the first offenses of most alcohol offenses in Texas are misdemeanors, if there is a prior conviction, the charge becomes a felony.

Don’t Risk the Penalties

When drinking, it is important to consider the variables that may affect whether you become drunk. This includes the period over which you consume alcohol, how much food you have in your system, and your metabolism. To help you make these determinations, there are online calculators to help you figure your BAC limits.

If you do find yourself facing a charge for intoxication, you need to call the law office of David Hunter at 281-957-6103.


BAC limits


The BAC Limits in Different States | David Hunter Law Firm — Sugar Land, Texas