How Long After Drinking Can You Drive

Categories: DUI Defense

A person holding a glass of beers and car keys.

*This article has been updated in January 2024.*

You only had a few drinks, but you can tell that you are inebriated. So, you decide that you will wait it out and drive again when it is safe – but when is that?

Determining how long after drinking can you drive is difficult to say. Numerous factors play a role here, and there is no quick reference chart saying you should drive X hours after X drinks.

By understanding the factors that play into the calculation and knowing your body, you can make a better decision when it is the right time to drive versus staying away from your car for a little longer. Worse case, you can always call a friend, rideshare, or taxi to take you home if you need to be somewhere and you cannot wait it out. Paying a few bucks for a ride is much better than a few thousand for a DUI.

Need guidance on “How long after drinking can I drive” or “Can you drive after one beer”? Make informed decisions – your safety is paramount. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI, it’s vital to seek legal assistance promptly. Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., specializes in DUI cases and can provide the necessary guidance and representation. Contact him for a no-obligation case evaluation.

Know the BAC in Colorado

First, you cannot drive if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or more. Usually, officers measure this on a breathalyzer, but that is after you are already pulled over on suspicion of a DUI. You can purchase plug-ins that work with a smartphone to read your BAC, which might be a worthwhile investment if you enjoy the occasional drink with friends after work and want to make sure you’re okay to drive home.

Regardless, you could still be charged with a DWAI even if you are under 0.08 percent. If your driving is impaired, officers can arrest you and be charged with a DWAI. So, it is important to review the factors and how alcohol affects everyone differently to see where you fall on the list.

Know the Factors That Can Influence How Intoxicated You Are as You Drink

Two people of the same height, weight, and age have two drinks. One feels incredibly inebriated, while the other is sober. What happened?

It is more than just the drink count. While playing a role, even height and weight are not the only factors that determine how alcohol affects one person to the next.

Before assuming you can drive after two hours because your friend can, here are a few factors you should investigate first:

Your Age

As you age, your body metabolizes slower. Therefore, someone who is younger may metabolize alcohol faster than someone even in their 30s or 40s.

Your Health and Any Underlying Medical Conditions

First, your overall health plays a role in how your body tolerates alcohol. Some people cannot process alcohol the same or as quickly. This means you could feel intoxicated longer than someone who is in better health. Certain medical conditions, and the medications you take for them, also play a role here. If you have any prescription medications that state you should not combine them with alcohol, there is a reason. Alcohol, once combined with these medications, can have an enhanced effect on your body. This means you may feel intoxicated longer and be unable to drive safely despite the fact you didn’t drink that much.

Other health conditions, such as kidney or liver disease, can make you feel intoxicated longer than those without these chronic conditions.

Height and Weight

The bigger you are, the more alcohol it takes to bring you above the 0.08 percent mark. A person who is 6’2 and weighs 200 pounds would have a higher threshold for drink counts than someone who is 5’2 and weighs barely 110 pounds.

You can find quick charts online that will reference your height and weight and tell you how many drinks you can safely have and stay under the limit – but these are guesses at best. Again, other factors can play a role in how truly intoxicated you are after those drinks, so you shouldn’t assume that because a chart says you can have two drinks safely, you are okay to drive.

How Frequently You Drink

People who rarely drink will feel the effects of alcohol much faster than someone who drinks frequently. Your body, like with any substance, builds a tolerance over time. The more alcohol you consume, the harder it is for your body to feel intoxicated. Regardless, you might feel fine, but your BAC could still be over the limit. So, do not assume you should drive just because you are “experienced” at drinking.

Whether You Ate That Day or Not

If you are drinking on an empty stomach, you may feel the effects of alcohol longer and faster than you would if you had a full meal just before you consumed alcohol.

The Standard 1-Hour per Drink Rule

Usually, you are safe to use the one-hour per drink rule. So, if you have two glasses of wine, you should wait two hours before driving. When you do an hour per drink, your body has time to overcome the other factors listed above, and hopefully, you have a safe enough BAC to drive.

Regardless, if it has been two hours, you had two drinks, but you still feel intoxicated, you shouldn’t drive. Just because the hour limit has passed doesn’t mean you are free to drive – you could still be intoxicated.

Don’t Risk a DUI – Have a Designated Driver

Instead of waiting for when you can drive, the best way to get where you need to go safely is not to drink and drive at all. Having a designated driver is your best protection against a DUI.

A DUI is more than just jail time. If you are convicted of a DUI, you will not only serve time in jail, but you will also pay fines and have a permanent criminal record. The record may impact your employment capacity, and you could lose your driver’s license for up to one year – even for a first offense.

If you or a loved one was arrested for a DUI, contact an attorney immediately. Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., can help you with your DUI case. Call him now to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation or request more information online.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.