How long after drinking can you drive? This question is unfortunately followed up by a number of other questions. How much did you drink? Did you eat? How much do you weigh? No two drivers are the same when it comes to metabolizing alcohol, and therefore sobering up.

If you’re not sure whether or not you should drive, chances are that you shouldn’t. The true cost of a DWI conviction in Texas outweighs the inconvenience of coming back to pick up your car in the morning. Trust us.

If you miscalculated, are now facing DWI charges, and want to avoid being incarcerated, you need to call the best DWI lawyer Houston has to offer. Mark Thiessen is not just dedicated and experienced, he is the only lawyer in America who is quadruple Board Certified in DWI, and he’s just a phone call away. Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 for unprecedented defense.

Know the legal limit in Texas

The legal alcohol limit in Texas is .08% for normal, non-commercial drivers, but it is .04% for drivers holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL) whether or not they are driving a commercial or personal vehicle. 

It should also be noted that if you register .15% or above on any BAC test, your punishment category will be increased (e.g. if you are pulled over for a DWI first offense in Texas it will be a Class A misdemeanor instead of a Class B misdemeanor).

Continue reading: Can you refuse a breathalyzer in Texas?

Familiarize yourself with the factors that affect blood alcohol concentration

Your blood alcohol concentration after a night of drinking depends on a huge number of factors, and some of the larger ones include:

  • The amount of alcohol you’ve had to drink is the primary factor that influences your BAC — the more you’ve had, the higher your BAC will be.
  • The time period over which you were drinking is the second most influential factor. If you’ve had five drinks spaced out evenly over the course of a long evening, you might be safe to drive, but over the course of one or two hours, it would be unlikely.
  • Your age, weight, and height all affect your ability to metabolize alcohol. In general, the younger you are, the faster you will metabolize alcohol, and the larger you are the more alcohol it takes to raise your BAC.
  • How regularly or irregularly you drink will influence your BAC greatly, but tolerance does not translate to BAC. Remember, how drunk you feel doesn’t always reflect how drunk you actually are.
  • Did you eat before you drank? Although drinking on an empty stomach can make you feel the effects of alcohol quicker, we’re mostly talking about eating a meal right before going out to drink can cause you to metabolize alcohol more slowly. 

So all of this affects your blood alcohol concentration, but you’re likely still wondering how long you’ve got to wait before you can drive. Can I drive 6 hours after drinking? Can I drive 12 hours after drinking? Well, that depends on how much you’ve had to drink.

Is the one-drink-per-hour rule reliable?

You may have heard about the one-drink-per-hour rule. It states that as long as you’ve only had one drink for every hour that you’ve been drinking, you should be under the legal limit. Whether that is having one drink every hour, on the hour, or taking three shots of tequila right when you arrive and waiting three hours before driving. Does this method work?

Sort of. There are a few major problems with it. 

The first problem is that not all drinks fall into the parameters that would make it “one drink” according to this formula. One drink means:

  • 12 oz of beer at 5% alcohol
  • 5 oz of wine at 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 oz of hard liquor at 40% alcohol

Many drinks, however, come in the form of tallboys, large pours, or cocktails that have way more than 1.5 ounces of hard liquor in them. The other problem is that the variance in individual BAC decline is much too large to rely on a system that works for everybody. 

For example, the police use a method called retrograde extrapolation to estimate the rate at which blood alcohol concentration falls. They use it to estimate how much higher your BAC was in the event that they are late in administering a BAC test, but we can use it to illustrate how long it takes for a person to fully metabolize alcohol.

Once your blood alcohol concentration begins to fall, which doesn’t happen immediately, it tends to fall at a rate of between 0.008 and 0.02 percent per hour — a slow process that is completely different from person to person. Here’s the important bit: the average person at the legal limit takes anywhere from 4 to 10 hours to sober up. You could be putting yourself and others in a risky situation if you plan to drive after drinking, regardless of the amount. With this in mind, keep track of how much you’re drinking and plan accordingly so that you can get home safely.

How long after drinking can you drive? When you’re back under the legal limit.

How long after drinking can you drive? Honestly, it’s always better not to risk it even if you go in with a plan. Whether you follow the one-drink-per-hour rule or give yourself a diagnostic sobriety test, you never truly know how drunk you really are and how that can impact your driving. It may be best to call a sober friend or a car service after drinking. Even if the bar will tow your car, it’s nothing compared to the cost of a DWI in Texas — we know this firsthand.

If you miscalculated and ended up temporarily incarcerated, Thiessen Law Firm is here to help. We’ve gotten 100+ Not Guilty verdicts and thousands of cases dismissed for our clients. If you need someone to defend you in court against a DWI charge, you can’t do much better. Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.