Although alcohol can impair a person’s faculties and cause long-term harm to those who drink excessively, it’s a legal, regulated substance in the developed world. Like other controlled substances that are off-limits, alcohol can stay in your system for hours after you ingest it and can show up on a variety of medical tests like blood, breath, and urine tests. Police officers looking to take drunk drivers off the road frequently rely on breath tests to gauge a person’s blood alcohol content or BAC.
If you’ve been drinking and are pulled over, you’ll likely worry about how what you imbibed will affect your BAC reading and whether the officer will arrest you if his breathalyzer detects any amount of alcohol. Your BAC reading will be affected by a few factors, including how much you had to drink and how long ago you consumed it.
Keep in mind that the results of a breath test, particularly results from the Intoxilyzer 8000 — which is taken at the police station — are also influenced by the machine’s calibration, the competency of the officers who operate the machine, and other factors. It’s usually possible to challenge the results of a breath test in court if you’re charged with DUI.
Understanding How the Body Metabolizes Alcohol
Metabolism refers to how the body processes and disposes of alcohol. This varies from person to person, and the same is true for how long it stays in your system. So, you might have a friend who appears unphased by having two or three drinks, but that doesn’t mean you’ll react in an identical way to the same number of drinks. Everyone’s body gets rid of alcohol differently, and the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol is affected by genetics and environmental factors.
The body can only handle a specific volume of alcohol per hour, and this varies from person to person. Genetic factors that influence how yours will metabolize alcohol include body mass and liver size. The amount of time it will take to process one drink also depends on your body’s production of ADH and ALD, the two main enzymes that aid the chemical breakdown of alcohol. Some people have unique versions of these enzymes that metabolize alcohol more efficiently, which cuts down on the time that alcohol is in their system.
Since the liver can only process a certain volume of alcohol in a given time period, anything more than this volume is stored in the blood and tissues, making the body take longer to clear itself of ethanol. The biggest factor that affects how long alcohol stays in your system is how many drinks you had. On average, a healthy liver can process one drink per hour. If you have two drinks in an hour, it can take up to two hours to clear them out of your body.
How Long After I Drink Can Alcohol Be Detected?
Certain tests can detect alcohol for a surprisingly long time after you drink. It takes about two hours for the ethanol in the bloodstream to end up in the urine in the bladder. Once ethanol is present in the bladder, it can be detected for approximately 1.5 hours. When your blood levels are high, a urine test can detect alcohol for up to 12 hours after consumption.
How Long Should I Wait Before Taking a BAC Test?
Blood alcohol concentration is the percentage of pure alcohol in your bloodstream or breath and can be detected by a blood or breath test. A BAC of 0.1% means that .1% of your blood is alcohol. One drink metabolized in one hour can cause a BAC of 0.015%, which can take about 10 hours to clear from your bloodstream. The more you drink, the longer it takes to get back to 0%.
If you take a breath test, the result can be positive for up to 12 hours after consuming alcohol. Alcohol can even be detected in a person’s sweat and hair follicles. If your BAC is 0.08, it will take more than 5 hours to eliminate the ethanol from your system completely. That’s why to be safe, you should never drive after drinking, even if you consume a “responsible” amount.
Effects of Different BAC Levels
- A BAC of 0.02 may impair your driving ability. People under 21 caught driving with a BAC of 0.02 may be arrested for DUI.
- A BAC of 0.04 may lead to feelings of relaxation and impair your driving ability. Commercial drivers with a BAC of 0.04 may face a DUI charge and loss of their CDL.
- A BAC of 0.08 is the legal limit for safe driving in most states; however, the police may still arrest you in Florida if you show signs of impairment.
- A BAC of 0.12 may cause symptoms like vomiting. This is approaching an elevated BAC of 0.15, which could lead to harsher penalties upon a DUI conviction.
- A BAC of 0.4 may cause you to lose consciousness.
- A BAC of 0.45 is usually fatal.
If you decide to drive and are stopped for DUI, refusing to take a breath test could cost you. Turn to an aggressive DUI lawyer for a competent defense.
DUI is a serious misdemeanor offense in Florida that could impact several aspects of your life even before you’re convicted. If you’re charged and convicted, a DUI cannot be expunged. Your damaged record could impact your ability to launch a successful career and could hurt people’s perception of you personally, making it challenging to establish fulfilling relationships.
For more than 25 years, attorney Brian Gabriel has paved the way for competent and effective DUI defenses in West Palm Beach. Call 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.