It’s common knowledge that driving under the influence is against the law, but most people assume that by the time they’re hungover they can drive without any risk of a DUI. Overall, they’re right, but there are some circumstances where driving hungover can be against the law.
Juveniles Driving With a Hangover
One of the most common reasons a person can get a DUI for driving while hungover is because they are not of the legal drinking age. That means that a teen driving with only a 0.01% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) can get a DUI, even if they’re not feeling any symptoms of intoxication. A male teenager of average weight (160 pounds) who drinks 4 beers will need to wait up to 8 hours to get their BAC back to zero. For a teenage female of average weight (125 pounds), it could take 12 hours.
Adults Who Wake Up Still Drunk
It’s important to recognize that only time can help a person’s BAC return to normal (at least, without medical intervention). Drinking coffee, taking a shower, or even taking a short nap won’t make someone sober again. In fact, if an average weight adult female (170 pounds) drank 4 drinks, it would take her at least 8 hours to eliminate the alcohol from her system and it would take an average weight male (200 pounds) at least 6 hours to reach a BAC of 0%.
In California it is illegal to drive with a BAC .08% or under the influence of alcohol and or drugs. So, even if a driver is below .08% BAC, they may still be charged with drunk driving. In San Diego County, DUI’s at .06% and above are routinely prosecuted. The amount of time it takes to eliminate alcohol is also different for many individuals and their unique circumstances, for example, whether someone ate or if he or she has a medical condition. The standard elimination rates are simply not an effective way of determining one’s alcohol content. Some people are still over the limit after a night of drinking and sufficient sleep.
That being said, many people drink substantially more than 4 drinks at a party, and doing so will dramatically increase the amount of time it may take them to reach a BAC under the legal limit. As an example, if a man drinks 10 beers, it will take him 12 hours to sober up to the point where he can safely drive. That means that even when he thinks he’s slept if off, he still likely has a BAC too drunk to drive.
A good rule of thumb for adults who want to drive after drinking is to wait at least one hour per drink before getting behind the wheel -as long as they only start counting the time after they have drank their last drink. When you consume a particularly high amount of alcohol or skip a meal, you should probably add an hour or two to that time just to be safe. If you really want to check that you’re good to go, you could always invest in a home breathalyzer device.
Anyone Who Combined Alcohol and Drugs
Drugs can increase the effects of alcohol, so it’s never a good idea to mix illegal drugs with alcohol and many prescription medications shouldn’t be taken with alcohol either. If you’re hungover after drinking and taking drugs, it’s possible you might fail a blood test, which could leave you with a DUI.
Driving While Hungover Still Isn’t Safe
While driving while hungover isn’t technically illegal as long as your BAC is below the legal limit, it’s worth noting that driving with a hangover is still a bad idea. That’s because even when the alcohol fully leaves your system, the symptoms of a hangover may still make driving just as dangerous as it is while drunk.
In fact, researchers have found that the head pain, nausea and general discomfort associated with a hangover can distract drivers so much that they drove similarly to drivers who had a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08%. Researchers also discovered it took the drivers up to 20 hours from the time they finished drinking to recover from the symptoms of their hangover, with the symptoms peaking about 12 hours in. So if you want to drive safely after drinking, be sure to give yourself adequate time to recover from your hangover, not just time to sober up.
If you have been charged with a DUI and do not believe you were actually under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a lawyer can help you fight the charges. Please call attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation today.