Is Buzzed Driving Legally Considered Drunk Driving?


It may be common knowledge that it is against the law to drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol; however, the line between “buzzed” and “drunk” may not always be clear.

Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a campaign touting that “buzzed driving is drunk driving.” These public service announcements are aimed at increasing awareness, but they can also serve to further confuse the issue.

What Does Buzzed Driving Mean?

"Buzzed" generally refers to being under the influence of alcohol, but not to the extent of being "drunk" or "intoxicated." While there are no official standards for what it means to be "buzzed" versus "drunk," the legal definition of DUI remains the same and depends on a person's blood alcohol concentration.

It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above:

  1. .08% for drivers older than 21
  2. .04% for commercial drivers
  3. .02% for drivers under the age of 21

Can You Get a Ticket for Buzzed Driving?

Unfortunately, while the law does define a legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol, a police officer can and may still arrest someone who is technically under that limit. How can this happen?

If law enforcement determines that a driver is not operating a vehicle safely, such as if a motorist is speeding, they may be charged with reckless driving. If that driver has a BAC of around, but not quite at the legal limit, they may face a “wet reckless” charge. Therefore, it is possible to get a ticket for buzzed driving, even if your BAC is below .08%.

Have You Been Charged with DUI in Tennessee?

Charges stemming from buzzed driving can be highly circumstantial. If you have been accused of a "wet reckless" charge or a DUI, it is critical to take legal action as soon as possible. A conviction for drunk driving can carry severe penalties such as time in jail, steep fines, and a driver’s license suspension.

When you need a hard-hitting defense to protect your driving privileges and freedoms, the Law Office of Stephen R. Leffler, P.C. can help. Our Memphis criminal defense attorney can bring more than 30 years of experience to your case.

Call (901) 509-9112 or contact us online today to discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney.

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