I am going to ask you a question many of my clients ask me: If you have several drinks and you do not feel drunk, are you allowed by law to drive a car? The answer in Los Angeles, California is not that simple. Let me explain.
Some people feel drunk after one drink, others only after one bottle. A common assumption made by many is that if they do not feel drunk, they can drive. That is a mistake. Contrary to what some may think, the law does not care whether or not you feel drunk. The only consideration in California, for example, is whether your blood alcohol level is above .08%. If it is, you are not allowed to drive. If you do drive in that condition and are stopped by the police, you may very well be arrested and later convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol or driving with blood alcohol level above .08%, commonly known as a DUI.
If possible, do not drink and drive. That may not be so easy, however. Very often we find ourselves in a restaurant celebrating a birthday, anniversary or some other occasion. Everyone drinks, and you would feel left out if you did not join in the toasts. So, if you chose to drink be aware of the following:
One drink equals approximately 28g. A male weighing 200 pounds will be over 0.08% blood alcohol level after 3-4 drinks, whether its beer, vodka or mixed drinks. Therefore, to be on the safe side if you weigh 200 pounds, 2-3 drinks should be your maximum, if you are about to drive. If you weigh less, drink less.
Be aware that alcohol usually leaves the blood stream at a rate of one drink every 1½ to 2 hours. So you may want to drink early and wait the time needed to get your blood alcohol level down below the California legal limit.
If you are the type that can not hold your liquor, however, and you feel drunk after a single drink then you shouldn’t drive after that drink. You may cause an accident regardless of your blood alcohol level.
Let me give you an example. One Saturday night Mike was driving home after a party at a restaurant in San Fernando Valley. He had a great time, saw all of his friends and raised his glass for every toast. He did not recall how much he had to drink, but he did not feel drunk at all. So he did not think twice before getting behind the wheel to drive home.
On his way home, however, Mike was stopped by the police for speeding. He was sure that he was not drunk and cooperated with the police to the fullest extent, submitting to the breathalizer test as well as the field sobriety tests [walking a straight line, touching one’s nose, and others] which demonstrate to the police your outward appearance of being intoxicated.
Unfortunately, tests showed Mike’s blood alcohol level exceeding the 0.08% limit.
What Mike did not know was that if the police suspected him of having a 0.08 percent of higher blood-alcohol concentration, he had the right to choose from among the blood and breath tests.
It is widely accepted that the blood test is the preferable of the two, and the easier to challenge in court. With that in mind, Mike should have chosen the blood test even if he felt that he was not drunk.
Mike also did not know that he should pay attention to the area where the field sobriety tests were administered, and to inform the officer if there was a problem. When asked to walk a straight line, Mike should have noticed that the ground was not even, and that the police car’s headlights were in his face making it difficult to correctly execute the test.
Unfortunately, Mike thought that cooperating with the police was beneficial to him. In this case it was not. What he should have done, was to let his wife drive, or to simply not drink at the restaurant.
How often do we act like Mike? Probably every time we are at a restaurant. We drink, we celebrate, we drive, and we get home without any problems. That one time that we get stopped by the police, however, may create a criminal record for an otherwise law abiding person. My advice is not to drink and drive, or to have another, who is sober, drive you home.
Remember this, there were 17,126 people killed last year in the United States in car accidents involving drunk drivers. One death, due to drunk drivers, every 30 minutes. Because of the high number of people killed every year by drunk drivers, the police and the court system deal very harshly with convicted drunk drivers, especially if the person has been convicted of a DUI on a prior occasion.