If you’ve been drinking, it’s important to know how many drinks you can consume before you’ve hit a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08, which is considered driving under the influence. There are a variety of factors that affect your BAC, with your gender and your weight being the two most significant. However, everyone’s body metabolizes alcohol a bit differently, so two people of the same gender and weight could drink equal amounts of alcohol and end up with different BACs. Additional factors that can affect your BAC include how much sleep you’ve had, how much you ate before or during drinking, and any medications that you take.
For the average 180-pound man, he will reach a BAC of .08 by drinking four drinks within an hour. Every 40 minutes to an hour after he stops drinking, his BAC will decrease by .01. An average 120-pound woman will reach a BAC of .08 by drinking two drinks within an hour, and her BAC will also decrease by .01 every 40 minutes to an hour.
A drink in this case is 12 ounces of beer, 1.5-ounces of 40-proof hard liquor or 5-ounces of wine. While mixed drinks typically have the equivalent of a shot of hard liquor, which is 1.5-ounces, that can vary. If your bartender pours heavier drinks, you’ll reach .08 more quickly.
There are charts available that can provide an approximate BAC based on your gender, weight and the amount of drinks you’ve consumed. However, with all the factors that can affect your BAC, you’ll be better off with a portable breathalyzer, which you can use to measure your BAC at any time. While these aren’t always 100-percent accurate, they are much more accurate than BAC charts.
Keep in mind that there are many situations where you can be charged with a DUI even though your BAC is below .08, including if you’re under 21 or if you’re driving a commercial vehicle. If a police officer pulls you over and believes that you’re impaired, they can still arrest you for a DUI even if your BAC isn’t at or above the legal limit.
It’s best to find alternate methods of transportation if you are going to be drinking, as you’re putting yourself and others at risk by getting behind the wheel. However, in the event you are pulled over after you’ve been drinking, it’s important to avoid providing the officer with any information he can use against you, which means you should say as little as possible. He may ask you if you’ve been drinking, and if so how many drinks you’ve had. The smart thing to say here is that you don’t wish to answer any questions. Provide the officer with your driver’s license and registration when he asks, and let him make the decision to arrest you or let you go without giving him any incriminating evidence.
It may be tempting to try to talk your way out of your situation, but the reality is that you can only make things worse for yourself, not better. If an officer suspects that you’re impaired, he is likely going to arrest you anyway. Telling him that you only had two or three drinks won’t convince him to let you go, it only gives him probable cause for a mandatory breathalyzer. By not saying anything, he may not have probable cause to arrest you. Even if he does arrest you, your defense attorney could later argue that he did so without probable cause, therefore your DUI charge should be dismissed.
Depending on your gender, weight and those many other factors, it could take you two, three, four or five drinks to reach a BAC of .08. But if you need to drive later, it’s always best to play it safe.