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Can one drink get you to the legal limit?

As a general rule, most people assume that it’s fine to drive after having one drink. They may feel like a drink is just part of their dinner at a local restaurant or a way to unwind with coworkers after work. This is much different than a night of drinking, after which they’d get a cab home. After a single drink, they’re more than happy to drive, feeling like there’s no issue.

But is this assumption accurate? Will you always be under the legal limit of a 0.08% BAC if you just have one drink, or could a single drink get you to that limit?

How big was that drink?

Typically, this assumption is correct, in that one drink will not get you beyond 0.08%. Even if you’re very small, weighing just 100 pounds, it will typically put you in the 0.04-0.05% range.

There are a few things to consider, however. First off, did you really have one drink?

For instance, a single shot of bourbon counts as one drink. If you ordered a double, it may still look like a relatively small drink, but it could get you to that limit. Plus, not all hard alcohol has the same proof. If you’re drinking something with a higher proof — some rum goes up to 151 proof (75.5% alcohol), for instance, vastly more than the typical 80 proof (40% alcohol) — you could drink just a single shot and essentially be having two drinks, not one.

The same issue is true for beer. One “drink” of beer means 12 ounces of beer at 5% alcohol. If you drink a pint, which is 16 ounces, it’s more than a single drink. If you drink a craft beer that is 11% alcohol, like an imperial stout, that’s more than two drinks even if you only have 12 ounces.

If you get arrested

You’re likely not thinking about all of the math while having that drink and then walking out to the car. If you get pulled over and arrested, you must know what legal steps to take to protect your future.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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