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Different Levels of Intoxication


You can drink multiple alcoholic beverages and function as though you had nothing to drink at all. Your spouse can drink one alcoholic beverage and stumble as they walk. Alcohol affects different people in different ways — or does it?

Just because someone seems to have a “high tolerance” for alcohol doesn’t mean they’re less affected by it. In fact, several studies have shown that alcohol tolerance is a bit of a myth. Sure, you may take several drinks to feel drunk, while another person may feel drunk after just one shot.

When it comes to performing tasks, however, the effects are the same, no matter the person’s “tolerance” of alcohol. Whether someone feels drunk or not, consuming alcohol impairs their ability to function and complete tasks.

As DUI defense lawyers, we’ve had numerous clients who were arrested for drunk driving, even though they didn’t feel drunk. Their “tolerance” was no match for the Breathalyzer, however; the machine showed they were legally drunk behind the wheel, and therefore breaking the law.

Whether you’ll be driving later in the night or not, it’s important to understand how alcohol typically affects a person’s body and mind. Making sure your blood alcohol content doesn’t get too high can literally be the difference between life and death.

Here is a brief breakdown of how alcohol affects the body by blood alcohol content (BAC). For reference, one standard size drink is:

  • 12 ounces/one bottle of beer at 5% alcohol content
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7% alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces (a shot) of distilled spirits or liquor at 40% alcohol content, or 80 proof

Though weight, sex and metabolism rate will be a factor, a general rule of thumb is that two standard drinks in the first hour of drinking will raise your BAC to about 0.05.*

*Disclaimer: For every 40 minutes of drinking, subtract .01 BAC. Any numbers presented in this blog are approximations and should not be used to determine your blood alcohol content and your ability to drive. A variety of different factors will affect your blood alcohol content. If you’ve been drinking at all, we always advise against driving.


0.02 – 0.03 BAC

There is a slight loss of inhibitions and a feeling of joy. There is typically no loss of coordinated activity, but may be a heightened sense of relaxation. You might feel a little warmer, and you might make some poor judgment calls.


0.04 – 0.06 BAC

Your actions may become more exaggerated, such as speaking louder. You may have a minor impairment of coordination, concentration, memory and reasoning. There is a lowering of inhibitions, and emotions are heightened. You may also lose the ability to focus your eyes. Some people may still feel fine and choose to drive — a dangerous choice.


0.07 – 0.09 BAC

At 0.08, it becomes illegal to drive. At this level of intoxication, a person will begin to exhibit signs of impaired balance and reaction time. Judgment and self-control is reduced, and memory is impaired; you may lose your short-term memory. A person that falls into this level of intoxication typically believes that they are functioning at a higher level than they really are. Your coordination, balance, speech and reaction times will suffer.


0.10 – 0.125 BAC

There is a marked impairment of coordination and judgment. A person may begin to slur their speech and lose their balance. Reaction time is significantly dulled. You will be visibly intoxicated; you may lose the ability to coordinate your legs and arms properly.


0.13 – 0.15 BAC

A lack of physical control is seen. Vision may become blurred, and there is a loss of coordination. The euphoria one feels begins to disappear and anxiety begins to take its place. Judgment is impaired. It may be difficult to walk or talk, and you may fall over. You may also start vomiting. This is the point at which you may become “sloppy drunk.”


0.20 BAC

The person may need assistance standing or walking. If they become injured, they probably will not know. Blackouts begin to occur at this level, depending on the person consuming the alcohol. You may feel confused, dazed or disoriented. Your gag reflex may also be impaired, which can lead to choking on vomit.


0.25 BAC

All bodily functions are severely impaired. The person is now at risk for serious accidents due to a lack of physical control. You may feel completely numb, which greatly increases your risk of being injured. You may also at a higher risk for choking on vomit.


0.30 BAC

At this level, it is not unusual for a person to pass out as the brain essentially shuts down. They may be difficult to awaken, and they will need to be monitored. They may also fall into a stupor, which is essentially passing out while seeming to be awake. This is when others surrounding the person begin to consider medical attention for the intoxicated person.


0.35 BAC

A coma could be imminent. At this level of intoxication, the person is in a state similar to that of surgical anesthesia. They may stop breathing, and are at a very high risk of death.


0.40 BAC or Higher

Death due to respiratory arrest is not uncommon. A person may go into a coma, or suffer from a sudden death due to their heart stopping.

Our Atlanta DUI Defense Lawyers Are Here to Help

It’s important to note that, just because you’ve stopped drinking, your body hasn’t stopped processing alcohol yet. A general rule of thumb is one hour is needed per drink for the body to fully metabolize the alcohol. Coffee, caffeine, cold showers and even food won’t speed up the process.

Having any level of alcohol in your system can get you arrested for driving under the influence. Though the legal limit is 0.08, if it is proven your driving was dangerous due to any amount of alcohol in your system, you can still be charged.

If you are arrested for DUI, reach out to our team of experienced Atlanta DUI defense attorneys. We are ready to mount a strong defense on your behalf. Call our office today or contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation.

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