A standard drink, as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), could be one 12-ounce beer, one 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, or one five-ounce glass of wine.
Considering that each of those drinks contains just an ounce of alcohol, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most people think that downing one isn’t going to get them into trouble if they decide to get behind the wheel and drive off.
The problem is, you can still be arrested and charged with driving under the influence even with just one drink in your system. Worse, it’s still possible for that single drink to get you involved in an accident that could hurt other people and make your DUI defense even more difficult. Here are some of the reasons why one drink could still put you at risk for accidents and prosecution.
The police officer can deem you to be impaired.
The blood alcohol concentration or BAC limit in all states, with the exception of Utah, is 0.08%. One standard drink may not be enough to get your BAC to that level, but it can still make you appear “noticeably impaired” to a police officer who may stop you on suspicion of drunk driving.
One standard drink could get your BAC level at about 0.02%, which is well below the legal limit. However, 0.02% is enough to affect the visual acuity, the capacity for tracking moving objects, and the multitasking ability of some people.
Even a slight dip in any or all of the above puts a person at risk of an accident. It could also make them drive erratically, which a police officer on the lookout for drunk drivers will most certainly notice. And even if a breathalyzer says your BAC sits at only 0.02%, that police officer will still book you if he thinks you are driving impaired.
Zero tolerance laws
If you were stopped in a state where zero tolerance laws are in effect, and you’re under 21, you can still be arrested for DUI if your BAC is at any level above 0.00%, which will surely be the case if you had one drink before getting behind the wheel.
The same thing will happen if you had the slightest trace of alcohol in your system while driving, and you have children in the car with you.
For all the reliability of breathalyzers, they can sometimes be inaccurate, and that may work against you if you had even just one drink.
Breathalyzers are designed to read breath samples straight from deep inside your lungs. They can also detect traces of alcohol in your mouth. If you had one drink before driving off, the breathalyzer could pick up mouth alcohol and give out a high, inaccurate reading that could reach the legal limit and land you in a jail cell for the night.
A skilled and experienced DUI lawyer may be able to get the charges dropped by proving the breathalyzer’s inaccurate reading in court, but you will have already gone through the hassle of dealing with a DUI case, which you could have avoided if you only took a rain check on that one drink that was offered to you.
There is no doubt that one drink is not going to get your BAC up to 0.08%, but if the above is any indication, it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth.
So if you’re thinking about getting behind the wheel, have enough strength to resist that ice-cold beer or that hot and tempting swig of tequila. It’s the only way to minimize the risk of an accident and prosecution for drunk driving.