DWI Convictions: How Long After Drinking Can You Drive?

DWI Attorney in Wake County

When it comes to your overall safety related to drinking and driving, you’ve probably heard the common rule of “one hour per drink.” For many people, this rule may be accurate, but it is safest to never assume you are sober enough to drive. A few factors that may alter the speed at which your body absorbs alcohol:

  • Body size
  • Gender (Men tend to process alcohol quicker than women)
  • State of your liver
  • Metabolism Rates
  • Age
  • Additional medications
  • Alcohol Strength

It is important that you take these factors and specific situations seriously because a North Carolina DWI arrest is a very expensive way to find out that you were not sober enough before driving home. You should always consider taking a taxi, Lyft, or Uber, or crashing with a friend before getting behind the wheel. But if you are unable to make this decision, this blog discusses other factors to consider before driving under the influence.

If you’re already facing charges from a DWI conviction or more serious charges in result of any alcohol related crashes in Wake County, including in Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Wake Forest, Wendell, Zebulon, and Rolesville, call an experienced Raleigh DWI Defense Lawyer today. Call us at (919) 239-8448 to schedule a free consultation. 

What is Impaired Driving?

Driving while under any level of intoxication can lead to arrest charges indicating that the arresting officer believes the driver may be too impaired to continue driving. As an overall definition, impaired driving means operating any type of automobile under the influence of alcohol or driving in an alcohol or drug-based situation. In some states, a driver could even face charges of impairment while operating a motor vehicle under the legal limit of 0.08.

In some specific cases, it is possible for an individual to fail the field sobriety test and be labeled as impaired even if the BAC in their urine was 0.08. In any type of situation, all states have tolerance laws that punish people under the legal drinking age, of 21, for driving with no driver’s license or after consuming alcohol of any level.

Are You Considered Legally Intoxicated at a BAC of .08?

There is no wiggle room in the fact that the federal limit to legally drive in the United States is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%, which means yes you are considered legally intoxicated. No matter how well you know your body, the facts are that it can take up to 6 hours for your BAC level to drop from the legal limit of .08 to .00 after drinking alcohol. So even when tempted to change this equation, you should always remember that drunk driving is one of the top causes of vehicle crashes and can end in unplanned fatal crashes.

It is important to note that all of these stipulations do not apply if you are under 21 because driving with anything higher than .00 is illegal.

Factors in Metabolizing Alcohol

Fair or not, every individual handles alcohol consumption differently. This is because there are a number of factors that determine how alcohol affects judgment, muscle control, speed control, and overall ability to operate a motor vehicle. Some of the factors that affect alcohol’s impact and absorption include:

  • Weight,
  • Fitness level,
  • Sex,
  • Food consumption,
  • Percentage of alcohol,
  • Rate of drinking,
  • Number of drinks,
  • Hydration,
  • Medical issues, and
  • Medication.

Jail Time and Fines for North Carolina DWI Convictions

The specific sentence may be determined on an individual basis depending on the severity of the crime, but the below penalties are common for different DWI convictions:

  • Level 5: 24 hours to 60 days in jail, up to a $200 fine, possible community service
  • Level 4: 48 hours to 120 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, possible community service
  • Level 3: 72 hours to 6 months in jail, up to $1,000 fine, possible community service
  • Level 2: 7 days to 1 year in jail, fines up to $2,000
  • Level 1: 30 days to 2 years in jail, fines up to $4,000
  • Level 1A: 1 to 3 years in jail, fines up to $10,000

Remember, to arrest you for driving while impaired, the officer must have probable cause. Probable cause means that sufficient evidence exists that an average officer in similar circumstances can reasonably infer that a person has committed a crime, in this case driving under the influence.

You’ve Been Charged With a DWI? Now What?

If you are facing any sort of DWI charge, you need to protect your rights by promptly hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you. At Coolidge Law Firm, we defend the rights of our clients accused of all types of felony and misdemeanor crimes in Wake County, including in Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Wake Forest, Wendell and Rolesville.

Call us today at (919) 239-8448 or fill out the contact form below to schedule a free consultation with a skilled Raleigh violent offense lawyer.



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