While the DUI limit is .08, you can still be charged and even convicted of General Impairment with a blood alcohol content below that amount.
Number of beverages and blood alcohol content in men.
It is not possible to accurately predict before drinking what an individual's blood alcohol content (BAC) will be after drinking. You can readily find various charts that show that an average 160 pound male will achieve .02 BAC after consumption of one drink. This does not mean you can predict your alcohol levels accurately, because there are many other factors that can affect BAC. Some additional factors include medical conditions like diabetes and liver disease, body fat percentage, age, and even your metabolic tolerance. Stomach contents can also drastically change the absorption rate and BAC of an individual. If a high fat meal is consumed before or during drinking it may result in a lower BAC, but may also result in prolonged absorption. Length of time between drinks can give the body time to process the alcohol, and waiting to drive after drinking helps as well. Though, plenty of people have been stopped with very high alcohol levels the next morning after a night out and a full night's rest.
Number of beverages and blood alcohol content in women.
Women tend to generate higher blood alcohol content (BAC) compared with men when consuming the same beverage amounts. A chart prediction of an average woman who weighed 160 pounds, and consumed one beverage would be assumed to have a BAC of .03. In comparison to a male, that is a substantial difference. Just like men, the same additional factors noted above can make accurate prediction of BAC by counting the number of beverages difficult.
So how many alcoholic beverages can you consume prior to legally driving?
The odor of alcohol can result in an officer taking you for a blood or breath test if they believe you are impaired. I have represented plenty of clients that were believed to be impaired and were taken for a blood test, to then have me at Court discover that they had nothing in their system, allowing me to achieve a withdrawal or dismissal of charges.
If a blood test is done they can charge you with a DUI for various legal and illegal substances, including validly prescribed medications. Common medications that appear in DUI blood test cases include various anxiety and antipsychotic medications, including Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan. Pain medications are also common sources of DUI charges, and they include Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Hydromorphine, and Fentanyl. There are many more medications including sleeping medications, muscle relaxers, and various others that can result in a DUI. Many of these medications can still remain in the body at substantial amounts the day after consumption. In addition, illegal drugs can also be found in blood testing and result in a DUI. Marijuana can especially be of issue as it stays in the body at testable amounts for so long; in Pennsylvania, consumption of marijuana can result in a DUI even when it had not been consumed that day, but instead they can pursue a conviction based on amounts in the blood from days prior. Every year, many people are charged with DUI in Pennsylvania with an alcohol level below the legal limit, but with small amounts of some of the above listed drugs.
Just a single drink can give you or your vehicle the odor of alcohol, and this can lead to a chain of events that results in a DUI charge, for drugs or medication that you might not even have consumed that day. You could also refuse testing and be prosecuted for a DUI, even though if you had taken the test you might have had a very low level.
In conclusion, I recommend consuming zero alcoholic beverages prior to driving. This is not what most of my clients expect or want to hear. With a society that has alcohol readily available for those over 21 at everything from sporting venues to restaurants, there is a false perception that having a couple drinks and operating a vehicle is legal. It may or it may not be, but unless you take an accurate BAC test prior to driving you won't know the answer until you are in Court, with your attorney showing you the test results.
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