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What Factors Impact a Person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration Level?

There are many different factors that affect blood alcohol content, which is why some people may drive with a BAC level above the legal limit.

In California, according to the California Vehicle Code, it is illegal for drivers to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration level at or above 0.08. A person who drives with this BAC level or exceeds it may be arrested and charged with DUI. However, since there are many different factors that affect how quickly a person's BAC level rises after consuming alcohol, a driver may not know whether or not he or she has reached a BAC level of 0.08 after spending a night out with friends or having a few drinks at a restaurant.

What Happens After Alcohol is Consumed

After a person consumes an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol is absorbed into the walls of the stomach and the small intestine, states the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Once this occurs, it then goes into the bloodstream and travels throughout the body and to the brain. Typically, a person's BAC level can be measured anywhere from 30 to 70 minutes after he or she has had an alcoholic drink.

The Factors That Affect Blood Alcohol Content

One common misconception about BAC level is that it is impacted by the type of alcohol consumed. However, according to the NHTSA, most alcoholic beverages contain about half an ounce of alcohol. Although the type of alcohol does not affect blood alcohol concentration, some of the different factors that impact it include the following:

  • Weight-the more a person weighs, the more water is present in his or her body. A person who weighs more will usually have a lower BAC level than another person who consumed the same amount of alcohol because the water in his or her body dilutes the alcohol.
  • Gender-alcohol does not go into fat cells as easily as other types of cells. More alcohol remains in the blood of women than men because women generally have less water and more body fat per pound.
  • The amount of food in the person's stomach-food can slow how quickly alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream after an alcoholic beverage is consumed.
  • How quickly the alcohol is consumed-when an alcoholic beverage is consumed at a rapid rate, the person's BAC level will rise faster than if he or she had consumed the beverage at a slower pace.

Those who operate a vehicle with a BAC level in California that exceeds the legal limit and are charged with DUI face severe penalties that may include fines, jail time and the requirement to perform community service. If you were arrested for drinking and driving, speak with an attorney to find out what you can do to protect your legal rights.