You know well that you don’t want to be driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC), that is over 0.08%. That is the legal limit for the majority of drivers in Virginia. There are lower limits for drivers who are under 21 years old or for commercial drivers, but the average person has to make sure they aren’t at or above 0.08%. Reaching this level allows the court to presume that that person was impaired if they get pulled over.
One thing that people sometimes ask is if the type of alcohol matters. If they have a beer, is that any different than having a glass of wine? What if they have a shot or a mixed drink? Does the type of alcohol impact their BAC in any meaningful way, helping them plan around when it would be safe and legal to drive?
A drink is a drink
No, the type of alcohol should not make a difference. As the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles puts it, “A drink is a drink is a drink.” Each drink that you consume is going to increase your blood alcohol concentration. But having one glass of wine or one beer or one shot shouldn’t make a difference at all.
The problem is that people sometimes do not understand exactly what qualifies as one drink, from a legal perspective. For hard alcohol, a drink is one shot. For wine, a drink is 5 ounces. For beer, a drink is 12 ounces. So drinking 12 ounces of wine might feel like simply having one drink, if it was in the same cup as 12 ounces of beer, but it would technically count as more than two drinks and would raise your BAC substantially more.
It’s also important to look at the alcohol content of the beer that you drink. You can usually assume that wine will be around 13% and that hard alcohol will be around 40%, but beer has a much wider range. A cheap commercial beer will probably be 4 to 5%, while a craft beer could be anywhere from 8 to 12. Craft beer is more like having a glass of wine, and so people will sometimes underestimate how many drinks they’ve had.
If you do find yourself facing DUI charges, make sure you know what legal steps to take.