Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a major offense in every state. In Texas, DWI is punishable with jail time, fees, license suspension, and potentially an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle. Experts say that even one drink can impair a driver. So is one beer enough to convict a driver of DWI? The truth may surprise you.
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is the measurement law enforcement uses to gauge if a driver is legally impaired. Every state has its own limits for BAC levels in drivers, but most follow the same or similar standards. In Texas, the legal BAC limits are:
Texas is one of only 10 states that allow minors to consume alcohol in certain locations, such as the privacy of one’s home or under the supervision of consenting family members. However, a minor who has consumed any amount of alcohol is liable to receive a DWI charge if he or she gets behind the wheel. Commercial drivers have a lower BAC limit because they have a greater responsibility for roadway safety in larger, more dangerous vehicles.
Police officers measure a driver’s BAC levels using field sobriety tests and chemical tests. As a licensed driver in Texas, you automatically consent to these tests. Refusal to take a BAC test has penalties of a 180-day license suspension for first-time offenders and a two-year suspension for second and third offenses. If you’re past the legal BAC level, regardless of how many drinks you consumed, the officer can arrest you for DWI.
Alcohol enters the bloodstream, impairing the body and mind. At a 0.08% BAC level, the typical person experiences poor coordination, slowed reaction time, and sedation. Coffee, a cold shower, and energy drinks won’t lower your BAC level. The only way to lower your BAC level is to wait long enough for your body to expel the alcohol. At levels lower than 0.08%, a driver may still experience lowered coordination and reaction times. An officer can still charge a driver with a DWI if the BAC level is below 0.08% in certain circumstances.
One 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, one 5-ounce glass of wine, and one 12-ounce beer have the same amount of alcohol. Just one drink could impair a person who weighs less than 100 pounds enough to not be able to drive safely. He or she may not have a BAC of 0.08%, but an officer could still make an arrest based on broken roadway rules, such as reckless driving. In general, it takes about three drinks for a person weighing 120 pounds to be legally intoxicated. However, a number of variables can influence this number, including how much the person eats, gender, body fat percentage, and any prescription medications he or she takes.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how many alcoholic beverages a person can consume before becoming too intoxicated to legally drive. Alcohol affects each person differently, and it’s up to the individual to know when he or she is too impaired to safely operate a motor vehicle. The best way to ensure that you don’t break the law or endanger the lives of others is to not consume any alcohol before driving. Otherwise, make sure you have a designated driver (someone who isn’t drinking) to take you home – or be prepared with the telephone number of a local taxi company.
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