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Estimating Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

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A conviction for driving under the influence in Colorado can have cascading negative effects, including loss of your driver’s license, having a conviction on your record, serving jail time, losing insurance coverage, effects on your employment, and can cost thousands of dollars. And of course driving under the influence increases the risk of harming yourself or someone else. Many people don’t have a good idea of how much they can drink before they would be considered impaired.

The primary measure of impairment while driving is the Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC. This indicates the level of alcohol in your blood, and can be measured by on-site breathalyzer tests, or by a blood test taken at a hospital. In the state of Colorado, a BAC of .08 or higher is the cutoff for an arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and a BAC of .05 to .07 would lead to an arrest for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). While DWAI has less severe mandatory penalties, the outcomes are generally very similar to DUI.

How much can I drink before I reach these cutoffs of impairment?

To do these rough calculations, you start with the number of drinks you’ve had. One drink is equivalent to approximately one 12 oz beer (5% alcohol), a 4 oz glass of wine (12% alcohol), or a shot of liquor (40% alcohol). Of course, different drinks will have more alcohol in them than others, so this is based on the average typical beverage.

The other primary factor to determine your BAC is the time since you started drinking. A general estimate is that your liver can break down alcohol at the rate of approximately one drink per hour. So, if you take one shot of alcohol, it will be out of your blood in approximately one hour.

So how can you estimate your BAC? There are a variety of online BAC calculators available online that can help you to estimate your BAC, for example However, these calculations are only estimates that can vary in accuracy. You can also find handheld breathalyzers sold online for prices ranging from $15 – $120. Considering the enormous costs of driving while impaired by alcohol, this is a small price to pay for reassurance that you are driving safely.

The best way to avoid Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Ability Impaired charges in Colorado is to have a designated driver, or take a ride share home! If you find yourself charged with drunk driving in Colorado, contact attorney Kevin Churchill. He has been representing people in cases like these in the Denver metro area for over 20 years.