Do you know how to tell if you’re still drunk in the morning? How do you know if you’re good to get behind the wheel? It sounds like a simple question, but if you drank enough to put you over the legal limit the night before, and then slept for less than 10 hours, you might risk getting a DWI the morning after. 

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Why do I still feel drunk the next morning?

Other than the obvious — that you are actually still drunk — feeling drunk the next morning and throughout the day can make it difficult to plan rides home, to lunch, or to buy a cold blue Powerade. 

Feeling drunk all day can definitely be part of a nasty hangover. A new analysis published by the Society for the Study of Addiction found that the cognitive effects of heavy alcohol consumption can persist throughout the entire next day, even when there is next to no alcohol in your system. They determined that being hungover can involve impairment of your cognitive functions and interfere with the normal performance of everyday tasks like driving. 

So, does being hungover mean you’re still drunk? Not always, but it can produce the same effects — other than the fun, feel-good ones.

Can you get a DWI the morning after drinking?

Yes, you can get a DWI the morning after drinking. The effects of alcohol don’t always wear off by the time you wake up after a night out, meaning you may still be legally drunk by the time you get behind the wheel. And if you get caught, you could be arrested under suspicion of DWI. 

You probably have a short playbook in your mind for how to sober up, but eating a greasy meal, drinking a lot of coffee, or taking a cold shower won’t make you able to drive safely. It’s not about how much energy you have or how long it has been since you’ve had your last drink, but actually how effectively your body has metabolized the alcohol. 

Although having a big meal can slightly slow down how quickly your body absorbs alcohol, there is nothing you can do to speed up how quickly your body metabolizes it. The only thing that can help you is time. 

But how can you tell if you’re under the legal alcohol limit in Texas and are okay to drive in the morning?

How do you tell if you are still drunk from the night before?

The average person takes one to two hours to fully process just one drink. You should start by doing some light calculus — and we’re sorry for suggesting this — to determine if you’ve had time to metabolize all that you’ve had to drink. When that doesn’t work, you should look for the normal indicators that you might be too drunk to drive including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Trouble balancing 
  • Difficulty with recall
  • Severe headaches
  • Fatigue or dizziness

If you’re unsure if you should drive, you shouldn’t. Don’t think just because you’re driving in the morning or afternoon that the police aren’t going to be looking for people driving drunk. If you are pulled over at 8 a.m. and you smell like a bar, you can bet that the police will still elect to conduct the standardized field sobriety tests — and that you will still fail them. Smelling like alcohol is considered probable cause and will absolutely provoke questioning and tests.

Continue reading: Probable cause definition in Texas

How long after drinking can you drive?

The police use a process called retrograde extrapolation to calculate blood alcohol content (BAC) hours before a proper test is administered. How quickly your blood alcohol level will begin to fall once you’ve stopped drinking depends on a number of factors including:

  • How much you drank and when
  • How recently you ate before you began drinking
  • Your age, height, weight, and sex
  • Your metabolism
  • Whether you drink regularly or irregularly

Your body can take a while to start metabolizing alcohol. Your blood alcohol level rises while you drink, but does not start falling immediately once you stop drinking; usually, BAC remains flat for an hour or so after you finish drinking before it begins to decline. Once your body does begin to metabolize the alcohol and your BAC begins to fall, it will fall at a rate of between 0.008 to 0.02 points per hour.

The process is slow, and it happens at very different rates for different people. So how long after drinking can you drive? Because alcohol metabolizes at a rate of around 0.016% per hour after a person stops drinking, it takes the average person around the legal limit anywhere between 4 and 8 hours to completely process the alcohol in their system and be completely free of the effects of alcohol. If you were well above the legal limit, it can take much longer than that. 

Our suggestion? If you’re unsure, order a ride. DWI charges are steep, even for DWI first offenses in Texas. Avoiding the egregious fines and license suspension is definitely worth the $20 you’ll spend on an Uber or Lyft.

DWI the morning after? Call Thiessen Law Firm day or night for defense.

Knowing how to tell if you’re still drunk the next morning can be a great way to avoid a morning-after DWI charge. But if you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of DWI, whether morning or midnight, you’re going to need the best DWI lawyer in Houston that you can find to defend your freedom. 

Mark Thiessen is an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist. He uses his extensive knowledge of the science behind DWI tests to defend his clients at trial. Call Thiessen Law Firm today for expert defense morning, noon, or night, 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.