When you are accused of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08 percent – or 0.04 if you are driving a commercial vehicle as part of your job, or 0.00 percent if you are younger than 21 – you can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
Driving under the influence is a serious charge. A DUI conviction can result in steep fines, jail time, and a driver’s license suspension, among other penalties. Although you can fight a drunk driving charge just like you can fight any other criminal charge, it is much easier to avoid being charged in the first place than it is to fight a DUI. Understanding how your body metabolizes alcohol and how your BAC rises as you drink may help you avoid being arrested for drunk driving.
BAC Reduces by About .015 Percent Per Hour
When alcohol is in your bloodstream, it exits your body through sweat, urine, and breath at a rate of about 0.015 g/100 mL per hour. In other words, once you stop drinking, your BAC reduces by approximately .015 percent each hour. While you are drinking, consuming more alcohol raises your BAC faster than your body can naturally produce it.
There is no way to lower your BAC, despite all the “tricks” you may hear about. The only way to “sober up” is to wait for all of the alcohol in your bloodstream to be metabolized.
Intoxication Rates Vary Much More Greatly than Metabolism Rates
Except for in cases where the individual’s alcohol metabolism is inhibited by liver damage or medication, alcohol metabolizes at about the same rate for everybody. This is not the case with rising BAC rates, though. There are many variables that determine how quickly an individual’s BAC rises as he or she drinks alcohol. These include:
- The rate at which the individual consumes alcohol. The faster you drink, the quicker the rate rises.
- Whether the individual is consuming food while drinking alcohol. Food can help to absorb some of the alcohol which can slow the rate down somewhat.
- The individual’s weight. The less someone weights, the faster the rate rises, although this is not always the case.
- The individual’s gender. A woman’s BAC rises faster than a man’s, and this is not just because women are generally smaller than men. Women have lower levels of the enzymes that break down alcohol in their bodies and because they generally have higher body fat to muscle ratios, which intensifies alcohol’s effects.
- The type of alcohol the individual is consuming. This is obvious, but must be mentioned – hard liquor that has a higher alcohol content raises the consumer’s BAC faster than drinks with lower alcohol levels, like beer and wine. However, don’t be fooled into thinking your beer and wine are “safer” than hard liquor. Too many people have made that mistake and ended up with handcuffs around their wrists for drunk driving.