Venessa Bornost June 28, 2016

Glass of CocktailsI am always asked how does one figure out whether they are too intoxicated to drive? My answer has always been the same whether it was when I was in law enforcement, or as a prosecutor or now as a defense attorney, don’t take a chance, don’t drink and drive! Take a cab, Uber or Lyft, or use a designated driver or public transportation. There are just too many ways to safely get out and about when one is drinking which does not involve you drinking and then getting behind the wheel of an automobile.

The newest statewide campaign against drunk driving is “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving”. But other than the obvious, that alcohol is the main culprit in causing one to be drunk and unable to operate a vehicle in the state of Florida, what other factors combined with the alcohol can affect someone’s intoxication?

The state uses a blood alcohol content (BAC) to measure the amount of alcohol present in an individual driver's blood. This is based on the volume of alcohol consumed over a given time period. In the state of Florida, an individual is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol if their BAC is at .08 or higher.



If you know you are going to be drinking you should always eat beforehand as well as a snack during. Foods high in protein are especially keen in helping slow the processing of alcohol. Typically, a person who has not eaten prior to drinking will hit a peak BAC quicker than someone who has eaten will hit a peak BAC, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.


The digestion process itself plays a large factor. For almost every person, no matter their size, the liver will only digest one standard drink per hour. This is why if one is going to drink and drive that it is recommended that they only drink one standard size drink per hour. This keeps the liver from being overloaded and enables a person to maintain a safer BAC. For those wondering, a pitcher or a growler is not standard drink sizes nor should they be consumed in one hour.

Rate of Consumption

The faster a person consumes alcoholic drinks, the quicker their BAC will rise. The human body can only process so much at one time. Remember, the liver will only process one standard size of alcoholic drink per hour.

Strength of Drink

Stronger drinks will result in a higher BAC when comparing same size servings of drinks which contain a less percentage of alcohol.

Body Weight/Body Type

The less you weigh, the more you will be affected by a given amount of alcohol. Thus those on the skinner side need to be more careful when drinking.

For people of the same weight, even the same gender, those individuals with a lower percentage of body fat than those with a higher percentage of body fat will be less affected by the alcohol consumed.

Gender Effect

Women have less dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach. By not having this enzyme in the same amount as their male counterparts, women have the alcohol consumed staying in their bodies longer, which contributes to higher BACs than men drinking the same amount of alcohol.

Hormone levels also affect the body’s ability to process alcohol. Women will experience higher BACs drinking their regular amount of alcohol right before their menstruation period than at any other time.

Women also tend to have a higher percentage of body fat and a lower percentage of water, once again impacting their body’s ability to process alcohol as quickly as a man of the same size who has consumed the same amount of alcohol.

Handle Your Alcohol

You know these people, the ones who seem to be able to drink all day or night yet don’t seem to exhibit any normal signs of being drunk or impaired. This is called functional tolerance, where the body’s sensitivity to the effects of alcohol is decreased. Outwardly they appear to not be drunk, but as long as their liver continues to eliminate alcohol at one normal serving per hour, their BAC will be the same as their buddy drinking next to them who has gotten louder and more personable. Being able to “Handle Your Alcohol” does not affect your BAC. Being able to “Handle Your Alcohol” to the point where you are drinking more and more to feel the effects you use to feel after much less alcohol is a sign that you may be developing a serious alcohol problem.


Alcohol is a drug, it should be treated no differently than taking any two prescriptions at the same time. It is important to know the drug interactions so ask your doctor before mixing the two.

Certain medications, such as antidepressants, should never be mixed with alcohol.

Certain pain killers and cold medicines can have a synergistic effect and can multiply the effects of alcohol up to ten times.

Though the mixing of medicines and alcohol may not affect your BAC their combined effects may make you even less capable of operating a motor vehicle.


You are sick, yet you still want to go out and have a “few” drinks with your friends. There is a good chance that because of your illness you are dehydrated. Dehydration can make your liver less efficient at eliminating the alcohol you are drinking thus possibly making your BAC higher than what you would expect it to be because your liver is not processing the alcohol as it would if you were not ill.


Fatigue causes many of the same symptoms as intoxication, which will magnify the effects of alcohol. When you are fatigued your liver is less efficient at processing and/or eliminating the alcohol you are drinking thus once again possibly making your BAC higher than what you would expect it to be but for your fatigue.


Carbonated drinks such as mixed drinks with sodas may increase the rate in which alcohol passes through your internal organs thus resulting in a possible higher BAC.

Don’t Drink and Drive

As you can see there is more than just alcohol involved when trying to determine whether you should drive after a few drinks. Again, I strongly urge anyone who drinks alcoholic beverages while away from home that they plan ahead and either use a cab, a designated driver, or some other type of public transportation rather than placing themselves and/or others at risk on the roads of Florida. It’s just not worth it.

The information provided in this blog is informational only. Its use is not intended to be nor should be considered legal advice. Any questions please contact the author.