Am I Over the Legal Limit?

Have you ever pondered why some people seem to get intoxicated faster than others? The answer relies upon the science behind the metabolization of alcohol. This can be confusing, especially if you’re facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge or trying to avoid one.

Even a single drink can impair your driving ability. Here is some general information to help you understand the concept of alcohol metabolism rates, blood alcohol levels, and how they relate to DUI charges.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a significant problem in the United States. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that one person is killed every 39 minutes in an alcohol-related accident. In 2021 there were 13,384 fatalities from accidents involving impaired drivers. That was an increase of 14% from 2020.

Drunk driving is a serious crime with severe consequences. You face driver’s license suspension, hefty fines, and probation, even if no injuries occur. You will likely have to perform community service and undergo substance abuse education and treatment. Your auto insurance costs will spike. Many states will require you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. This device uses a breath test to ensure you cannot start your car if you have any alcohol in your system.

When discussing the “legal limit,” we refer to the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. This is your blood alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Chemical tests measure your BAC, either by a blood test, a urine test, or a breath test. Officers may have you perform field sobriety tests as well. Law enforcement conducts these tests at the time of your arrest or within two hours.

In the U.S., the BAC limit is 0.05% or 0.08%, depending on your state. You are “per se” under the influence of alcohol if your BAC is at your state’s legal limit or greater. Per se intoxication means the prosecution doesn’t need to provide additional evidence of your impairment.

In many states, you can get arrested on a drunk driving charge even if your BAC is below the legal limit when you appear intoxicated. Of course, this doesn’t refer to being under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs.

If you are under the legal drinking age, you face arrest if a police officer finds any amount of alcohol in your system. These “zero tolerance” laws are present in all 50 states.

So, how many drinks does a person need to reach that limit? There isn’t a magic number, unfortunately. When you consume an alcoholic beverage on an empty stomach, 20% to 30% of the alcohol gets absorbed into your blood through the walls of your stomach relatively quickly. It does not have to undergo digestion, like food, to enter your bloodstream. The remaining alcohol moves to your small intestine, where it is further absorbed. If you have food in your stomach, this will slow the alcohol absorption rate.

Alcohol affects your central nervous system. Even one drink can affect your coordination, slowing your response time and movements. You can feel drowsy and have trouble making decisions. All these factors make it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle.

Alcohol metabolizes or burns off at about one average drink per hour. This rate is pretty standard regardless of your weight. What differs is how a person’s BAC rises. A smaller woman will typically have her BAC increase more quickly and with less alcohol than a larger man. For a man, it may take five or more drinks in an hour to reach a BAC of 0.08%, whereas it may only take two or three drinks for a woman.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle DUI Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle DUI Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.

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