Alcohol Absorption & BAC: What slows it down and what speeds it up?

Alfonso Gambone
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Alfonso Gambone is a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney dedicated to protecting your rights.

Alcohol Absorption & BACDriving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal charge in Pennsylvania and every other state. One of the biggest factors in these cases is your blood alcohol content (concentration) and understanding it is important to any criminal defense strategy in drunk drivers cases that can expose even a first time offender to jail time.   Prior to defending a DUI case it’s important that your Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer understand what actually constitutes a drink because alcohol consumption determines your BAC and your level of intoxication. Remember that in Pennsylvania the legal limit is .08 and you’re therefore committing a crime if your blood alcohol content rises above that level. An alcoholic drink is defined as any of the following:

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler
  • 1 mixed drink with 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor (vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, brandy, or rum)

Police can determine your blood alcohol content by drawing a sample of your blood or administering a breathalyzer test. People often misunderstand BAC and alcohol consumption but this concept is critical to have any chance of winning your Pennsylvania drunk driving case. The following can affect your BAC level:

  • Amount – the more you drink the higher your BAC (shocking right).
  • Speed – the faster you consume alcohol the higher your BAC
  • Gender – on average women will have a higher BAC level than men even if they consume the same amount of alcohol because the female body contains less water and on average has more body fat so alcohol remains in the system longer.
  • Weight – a heavier person will have a lower BAC then a lighter person that consumes the same amount of alcohol because the extra weight equals more body fat and more water in the body which dilutes the alcohol.
  • Food– any food in your stomach slows the alcohol absorption rate and lowers BAC.
  • Muscle – less muscle mass and more body fat will equal higher BAC.
  • Fatigue – if you’re tired when you are consuming alcohol your liver is less efficient which will result in a higher BAC.
  • Hydration – if you’re dehydrated your BAC will rise faster and last longer at that elevated level.
  • Mixers – water and juice mixers slow the absorption of alcohol and lowers BAC while carbonated drinks (soda) speeds up absorption and raises BAC levels even if the same amount of alcohol is consumed with a juice or water mixer.

In addition to understanding what affects your BAC, it is also important to understand what doesn’t affect it. Most people are under the impression that tolerance allows you to drink more and changes the BAC level within your blood or breath but this is simply incorrect. Your tolerance just means that you don’t feel as drunk but people on average metabolize alcohol the same way and it is that rate which your body metabolizes alcohol that determines your BAC content. After drinking, around 2 to 8 percent of the ethyl alcohol (what makes you intoxicated) is lost through urine, sweat, or the breath; the remainder in metabolized

In addition to tolerance people believe that homemade remedies such as drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, exercising will also change your BAC level. This, again, is wrong and the only thing that will decrease BAC is time. Homemade remedies don’t work and you’re simply making yourself sick trying to force alcohol from your body.

Finally, people believe that your emotional state has some effect on your BAC but this simply isn’t the case. While your emotional state may affect your sense of exuberance or your state of depression it won’t change your BAC level.  Defending a drunk driving case in Pennsylvania requires a strategic plan. I encourage you to read my books on DUI and criminal defense. You may also want to watch my videos and subscribe to my monthly newsletter. These publications discuss field sobriety testing, motions to suppress evidence, probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and all of the factors that go into criminal defense of these charges.  I wish you the best with your DUI case!