If you drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in any U.S. state, including Pennsylvania, you can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. If your BAC is significantly higher than that level, you can face more serious DUI penalties. While you might understand that the legal limit in Pennsylvania is 0.08%, you might wonder what that means, how much you can safely consume before driving, and how the police test your BAC level. At DiCindio Law, we defend people who have been charged with DUI offenses and believe that it is important for you to understand the following about your BAC.
What is your BAC?
BAC is an acronym that stands for blood alcohol concentration. This is a measurement of the amount of alcohol in your blood. As you drink, your BAC increases, and your level of impairment goes up. This means that your BAC is correlated with your impairment level, which is why the law uses it as a determining factor of whether people are under the influence of alcohol when they drive.
Common myths about BAC levels
To properly understand your BAC, you need to understand some of the common myths that people have about their BAC levels. Some people believe that they can drink coffee or eat food to sober up and lower their BAC levels. However, the only thing that you can do to reduce your BAC is to wait. Eating food after you have ingested alcohol or drinking coffee will not dilute the amount of alcohol in your blood. However, if you drink alcohol after you have a full stomach, the rate at which you absorb alcohol can be slowed. For this to work, however, you will need to eat before you drink alcohol and then limit the number of drinks that you consume.
Factors that affect a person’s BAC
The BAC level is affected by a person’s weight, gender, medication use, metabolism, and the rate at which the alcohol is consumed. You need to understand how all of these factors work together to understand your BAC level. We will take a quick look at each factor below.
Weight and your BAC level
People who do not weigh very much have less water in their bodies. This means that it will not take very much alcohol for their BAC levels to rise. By contrast, the bodies of heavier people contain more water, so they can drink more alcohol before their BACs reach the legal limit.
Gender and your BAC level
Men tend to weigh more than women, and their bodies contain more water than the bodies of women. Because of their extra water levels and added weights, men can consume more alcohol than women before they become impaired.
Medications and your BAC level
While certain types of medications might not increase your BAC level, they can interact with the alcohol in your blood and enhance its effects. You should avoid mixing medications with alcohol. Read your medication labels for all of the drugs that you take before you drink alcohol. Some medications, including certain cold medicines, contain alcohol. If you drink alcohol after you take medications that also contain alcohol, your BAC might be higher than you realize.
Your metabolism and your BAC
Your metabolism is the rate that your body metabolizes food, including alcohol. It varies between people and depends on genetic factors, the types of alcohol and food that are metabolized, and your body temperature. If you have a slower metabolism, you will have a higher BAC level than someone who drinks the same amount of alcohol but has a higher metabolism.
Your consumption rate and BAC
If you drink several drinks very quickly, your BAC will be higher. Drinking the same number of drinks over a long period will result in a lower BAC because your body will have more time to metabolize the alcohol.
What is the legal limit in Pennsylvania?
Under 75 Pa.C.S. 3802(a)(2), the legal limit for a general impairment DUI is 0.08%. However, if you are impaired by alcohol and have a lower BAC level, you can still be charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania. If your BAC is higher than 0.10%, you will face stiffer penalties. If it is higher than 0.16%, you will face the most severe penalties in the state.
How do the police measure BAC levels?
To determine the BAC levels of people who have been arrested on suspicion of committing DUI offenses, the police may use breath, blood, or urine tests. Urine tests are not used very often because of their unreliability. Blood tests can be difficult because some people are afraid of needles, and it can take weeks for the results to come back. This means that the police most frequently use breathalyzer tests to test the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath. The police used to use partition ratios to determine how much alcohol was in the person’s blood based on their breath alcohol concentrations. Under the state’s DUI statute, it is unlawful to drive with a concentration of 0.08% of alcohol on your blood or breath. By including breath and blood alcohol concentrations in the DUI statute, the state has prevented litigation over the partition rates that were previously used to determine the blood alcohol concentration from the breath alcohol concentration.
How much you can drink before driving
As was previously explained, the amount that you can drink before reaching a 0.08% BAC will depend on multiple factors. Some people can drink more than others. Since every person is different, you should not compare how much you can drink to someone else’s rate of consumption. You should plan for a ride home when you are going out for drinks.
Get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer
If you are facing DUI charges after submitting to a chemical test, you should get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer. An attorney at DiCindio Law can review the evidence in your case and explain the defenses that might be available to you. Contact us today by filling out our contact form or calling us at 610.430.3535.