Can You Still Be Charged if Your BAC is below .08% in Minnesota?

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The blood alcohol level in Minnesota is set at .08, a number that’s commonly known by many drivers. However, under some circumstances, it is possible to still face drunk driving-related charges even if you’re under the legal limit, which is something the Minnesota Department of Public Safety admits. Here’s what you need to know:

Zero Tolerance for Under 21 – In Minnesota, drivers under the age of 21 can face penalties for having any level of alcohol above .00 within their systems. Known as Zero Tolerance, the law itself applies to underage drivers who are caught consuming while driving, or where consumption is present in the person’s body (for example, where a BAC test is administered). While being caught may not necessarily lead to a regular DWI charge, lesser penalties such as license suspensions or misdemeanor charges are possible. Additionally, it can affect the underage person’s eligibility for receiving another driver’s license, a provisional license, or an instruction permit. Meanwhile, offenses for those aged 16 and 17 are tried in juvenile courts and such violations are consider major traffic offenses. For more information, see page 17 of the information brief provided via the MN House of Representatives (

Commercial Vehicles – The threshold is lower for those driving commercial vehicles. Those driving commercially with a BAC of above .04 can receive a license revocation for an entire year. Meanwhile, they are still free to drive their personal vehicles, unless they’ve exceeded the typical .08 BAC threshold. Getting caught for a second time driving commercially above the .04 limit can result in the revocation of commercial driving privileges for up to one year. For more information regarding commercial vehicle driving and how it’s related to DWI, see the bottom of page 17 of An Overview of Minnesota’s DWI Laws (

Operating an Aircraft – Similar to operating a commercial motor vehicle, the threshold for operating an aircraft is also set at .04 – in congruence with federal law (a gross misdemeanor). Additionally, it’s illegal to fly within eight hours of any consumption, which can still be a misdemeanor if it’s under the .04 threshold.

Open Bottle – It is illegal to have an open alcohol bottle (or can) in any vehicle that is being operated on Minnesota roadways, even if the alcoholic beverage is not in the process of being consumed. However, if the open bottle is present in an area where there are no passengers (i.e. the trunk), it is not a violation. Excluded from this law are passengers in vehicles including: limousines, buses, pedal pubs, and motorboats. For more information on Minnesota’s open bottle statute, visit the Office of Revisor of Statutes webpage. Violation of this statute can lead to a misdemeanor.

Operating School Buses – Zero tolerance also applies to drivers who are operating school buses. If a school bus driver is found to be operating the vehicle with ANY amount of alcohol in their system, they can receive a DWI and have their school bus driving endorsement cancelled. In such instances, the person would still be able to operate their personal vehicle(s), assuming they haven’t violated the regular .08% limit.

Under Influence of something else – Under Minnesota law, authorities don’t need to show that your BAC is above .08 if you’re found to be under the influence of hazardous or controlled substances. This is known as “drugged driving.” To learn more about drugged driving, view the Drugged Driving page on the Minnesota State Patrol website.

If you find yourself in the predicament of facing DWI-related charges even when your BAC is below .08, finding a qualified lawyer is the first step in understanding how you can fight for dismissal.