Any experienced DUI lawyers will tell you that the best way to avoid a DUI is to avoid drinking all together before getting behind the wheel.  However, the reality is that many people simply have a glass of wine or a beer when out at a restaurant and want to know how long they must wait before being legally able to drive home without worrying about being arrested for DUI in PA.   This is not an easy question to answer, as there are many factors which affect how alcohol is absorbed and eliminated in your body, from the amount of food in your stomach, to your gender, height, weight, and tolerance to alcohol.  That being said, skilled DUI lawyers are here to give you the truth behind the absorption & elimination of alcohol in your system and to debunk a common myth on the subject.

DUI in PA: The Basic Principles of BAC

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) determines the degree of your intoxication after drinking alcohol.  This percentage is not affected by the amount of food in your stomach or how long you have been drinking that day.  The legal BAC limit in Pennsylvania is .08%, and whether it took you 2 hours or 4 hours to reach that level, once there, your ability to drive is impaired to the extent that you can be arrested for DUI.

Now, what exactly does this .08% actually mean?  The quantity of alcohol present in your blood is capable of being measured accurately.  Without getting overly scientific, this is typically expressed as grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, meaning that by testing 100 milliliters of your blood as part of the DUI investigation, if 8 grams of alcohol are present, your BAC is .08%.

Alcohol Absorption and Elimination

Now that you understand the basics of what your BAC means, the next issue to comprehend are the basics of how the alcohol in your system is absorbed and eliminated.  After alcohol is ingested, some of it is absorbed on the way to your stomach, but the majority is absorbed after passing through your stomach, in the small intestine.  Your BAC is determined by how fast alcohol is absorbed into your blood and how fast it’s eliminated from it.  Elimination occurs when most of the alcohol is “burned” or “oxidized” in your body, while the rest of the alcohol is eliminated through your breath, urine, and sweat.

Your level of intoxication depends a lot on the rate of absorption, as alcohol is generally eliminated from the bloodstream at a fairly steady rate. If alcohol is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream (such as when there is no food in your stomach), your BAC will peak quickly and when it is absorbed slowly, your BAC will not be as high.

On average, approximately 60% of the alcohol consumed at a given time will be absorbed into the bloodstream 30 minutes later, approximately 90% will be absorbed within 60 minutes, and 100% will be absorbed in 90 minutes. That being said, absorption depends on all sorts of things, as mentioned above, including how much alcohol you actually drank, how strong the drinks are, how fast you were drinking, and the nature and amount of food already in your stomach.  Be mindful, however, that the presence of food in your stomach does not prevent the effects of alcohol on your system, but simply slows the rate which alcohol is absorbed.

Common myth for “Sobering You Up”

While the above information is very useful when considering how long it takes to be able to drive safely, there are a number of common myths surrounding the absorption of alcohol, or “sobering up,” which the majority of people actually believe. The most common myth DUI lawyers hear is to simply drink coffee as if it has some magical properties which eliminate the effects of alcohol.  This is simply not true.  The only way to sober up is to let your body metabolize the alcohol in your system, which takes time.  Many people believe that since alcohol is a depressant and coffee is a stimulant, then these two should cancel each other out and the effects are eliminated.  Again, this is simply not true.  Drinking coffee only provides your body with caffeine, which may simulate the effect of sobering up (because you are more awake) but be aware that if you were above the .08% BAC before the coffee, you are above .08% after the coffee.

The Martin Law Firm | DUI Lawyers

The experienced DUI lawyers at The Martin Law Firm regularly assist clients with all DUI arrests and provide legal representation including advice to prevent future DUI offenses in PA. For more information regarding DUI in Pennsylvania visit our DUI Center, download our free Pennsylvania DUI Handbook, or contact us at 215-646-3980 to speak with skilled DUI lawyers regarding your case.