You decide to go out for drinks with your friends after work. You know have an early day tomorrow, but a few hours of sleep and some coffee should set you straight. You fill up your thermos after your alarm goes off, and you get behind the wheel. There’s no possible way you could get a DUI because you haven’t had any alcohol since you woke up, right?

How the body metabolizes alcohol

You could very well be charged with drunk driving, even if you stopped drinking hours earlier and had gone to bed. This is because it takes time for your body to metabolize the alcohol in your system. The body processes alcohol slowly. Eventually, your body will eliminate the alcohol in your system through breathing, sweating, and oxidation. In general, it will take between 75 to 90 minutes for the average-sized person to metabolize a standard-sized alcoholic beverage.

A standard-sized beverage is considered one-and-a-half ounces of 80 proof alcohol, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Obviously, alcohol content can vary. A lot depends on how heavy the pour is and the ABV of the beverage you’re consuming.

Even adhering to the standard-sized person rule of thumb, metabolism rates can vary greatly from individual to individual. Several factors can affect the metabolic rate, including:

  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Whether a person had eaten recently
  • The number of drinks consumed over the course of an hour

Remember, it takes roughly one hour for the body to break down a single drink. As such, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can easily rise even after you’ve stopped drinking. You may have thought you had “slept it off.” However, a DUI charge is a very real possibility the next morning.

When you’re feeling groggy, or your thoughts are foggy after drinking the night before, don’t write it off as a mere hangover. You may still be legally intoxicated. You should refrain from getting behind the wheel until you feel like your old self again.