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How fast does blood alcohol concentration decline?

There are some cases where people will get pulled over for driving under the influence when they think they waited long enough that they should no longer be impaired. This isn’t a situation where they didn’t know they drank too much to drive. They were well aware, but they spent some time waiting – perhaps drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of water – so that they would be able to drive again. When they felt sober, then they got in the car.

However, this doesn’t necessarily work. The issue could be that someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is still too high, and they are over the legal limit. Additionally, since you can be arrested for impairment even if you are under the legal limit, simply having a positive BAC could be enough.

Metabolizing alcohol in your system

The key is to remember that your body has to metabolize the alcohol that you have already consumed. This is the only thing that causes your BAC to decline. Nothing else, such as that glass of water or a cup of coffee, will make a difference.

As a general rule, BAC drops by about 0.015% per hour. That is simply the rate at which your body can process the alcohol you consumed, and there’s nothing you can do to speed it up.

This means it may take far longer than people assume to get back down to 0.00%. For instance, if your BAC is at 0.09%, then you are just slightly over the legal limit of 0.08%. But it would still take another six hours for you to get all the way back down to zero. If you decided to wait until you were sober and you only refrained from drinking for an hour or so, it’s not nearly enough time.

If this leads to drunk driving charges when you thought that you had done enough to be safe, you need to know about your legal options. A DUI can have major ramifications in your life, leading to things like a license suspension, jail time and a hefty fine.