If you ask most people in Indiana what the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is, they’ll tell you that it’s 0.08%. Some people may mistakenly believe that you can’t get an OWI charge if you’re under this limit, but what it actually means is just that the court can assume you are impaired if you’re at or over the limit.
However, this belief that being at 0.07% or under protects you from DWI charges isn’t even the most problematic misinterpretation of the law. For those between 16 and 21 years old, the bigger issue is that the limit doesn’t even apply.
The zero-tolerance law
Laws like this are common, and they’re often referred to as zero-tolerance laws. Essentially, it sets the BAC limit at 0.02%, meaning that almost any test that results in a positive result of any kind can lead to OWI charges. This lower limit applies to all drivers who are under 21, so high school and college students from 16 — the legal driving age — to 21 needs to know that one positive breath test can have a huge impact on their life.
If they get a result like 0.04%, they shouldn’t assume that this means they won’t be charged. That may be half of the legal limit for most drivers, but it’s twice the legal limit for them.
Underage drivers can’t drink at all
The clear reason for these laws is that underage drivers are not supposed to drink anything. It’s illegal for a 16-year-old to buy or possess alcohol. A positive breath test shows that they have already broken this law. They are operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol. That level may be permitted for some adult drivers, who are used to consuming alcohol, but no influence is allowed for those under 21.
This means that young people need to be very careful. They may not feel impaired after having one illegal drink at a party, but they could still end up with OWI charges if caught. They then need to know about all of the legal options at their disposal.