Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances is dangerous and can result in serious consequences, including a DUI conviction or even a fatal accident. If you plan on consuming alcohol, it’s important to enjoy it responsibly and to consider the following factors before getting behind the wheel.
How Drunk Am I?
There are many factors that determine how quickly a person becomes intoxicated. Your level of intoxication can depend on elements such as your:
- Dinking history
- Body size
- Amount of food you’ve eaten that day
In addition to these factors, there are several phases of intoxication that range from sobriety to potential fatality. If you’ve consumed one or fewer alcoholic beverages, then you are likely in the sobriety or low-level intoxication phase. At this stage, you will still feel like your normal self.
However, once you consume two or more alcoholic beverages, you begin to experience the mind-altering effects of alcohol that can cause:
- Slower reaction times
- Loss of inhibitions
- Loss of motor skills
- And other undesirable effects
What is My BAC?
BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration. This is the unit of measure used to determine the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. BAC is measured based on the weight of alcohol in a certain volume of blood. In most of the United States, a person with a BAC of 0.08% is considered legally intoxicated. Due to the increased risks of impaired driving and vehicle crashes, it is illegal to operate a vehicle in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
After drinking the same drinks, blood alcohol level will vary between different people based on the factors discussed in the previous section. That being said, you can use a blood alcohol calculator to get an estimation of your BAC. A BAC calculator takes into account the:
- Person’s gender
- Person’s weight
- Number of drinks they have consumed
- Type of drinks (beer, wine, liquor) consumed
- Number of hours over which the person has been drinking
This calculation gives an estimation of BAC, but again, this is just an approximation and not an actual determination of intoxication. It is never recommended to drive after you have been drinking, even if your BAC is estimated to be below 0.08%.
The three most common methods for determining BAC are breath, blood, and urine tests. Breath testing is the most common test used by law enforcement thanks to its convenience. It requires a person to blow into a breath analysis device, or breathalyzer, which measures the alcohol that passes through blood vessels in the lungs and is then expelled in a person’s breath. Blood tests require a person to have a sample of blood drawn and tested. Blood tests are typically the most accurate way to determine BAC. Urine tests are less accurate than breath or blood tests and can be skewed by factors like the passage of time or dilution of a urine sample.
What Steps Do I Take if I’m Charged with a DUI?
If you drive under the influence of alcohol, are pulled over by a police officer, and it is proven that your BAC is over the legal limit, you will likely be charged with driving under the influence, or DUI. After your arrest, you will have to appear before a judge for an arraignment where you will be given the option to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. After your arraignment, if you have not yet hired an attorney, it is wise to hire a lawyer who specializes in DUI defense to help you evaluate and defend your case.
DUI lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the complex laws surrounding DUI convictions. They can help assess the evidence against you, explain your options, and help you decide the best course of action to take in your defense. Most likely, your options will include pleading guilty as charged, trying to plea bargain for a lesser charge, or requesting a trial either by jury or by judge. Trying to choose which of these options is best for your case is difficult and risky without the guidance of a skilled DUI lawyer to help evaluate your particular case and explain the risks and benefits to each course of action.
What Happens After My Case is Settled?
Unless you and your lawyer have been able to get your case dismissed, you will have to deal with the consequences of your DUI conviction after the case has been settled. The ramifications you’ll face will depend on the severity of your conviction. It is likely that you will be required to attend DUI classes. If this is your first conviction, the program may be short, lasting only a day or two.
However, you may be required to take a more intensive program that could last several weeks and require random drug or alcohol testing if you are a repeat offender, your BAC was extremely high, or if there was a minor in your vehicle. Other consequences of a DUI conviction could include:
- Driver’s license suspension
- Substantial fines
- Ignition interlock device
- Court-mandated community service
- Jail time
It is important to remember to always consume alcohol responsibly and to avoid operating a vehicle if you’ve been drinking. If you do find yourself facing a DUI conviction, be sure to contact a skilled DUI lawyer to help you guide you through the legal process.