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How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Your Breath?


Every year, 1.5 million Americans are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This rate of arrest makes a DUI one of the most common crimes committed in the country. 

And though ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have helped to alleviate the problem to a degree, there is still much room for improvement. Given that over 50 percent of adults report having had a drink in the last month, and that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in any state with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, it is in your best interest to know what to do to stay safe and make sure you aren’t breaking the law.

Obviously, one way of doing that is knowing more about alcohol, how it affects you, and how long it stays in your system. More specifically, because officers might ask you to take a breathalyzer test if they smell alcohol on your breath, it might be a good idea to know how long you need to wait before you can legally drive.

How Long After a Drink Can Alcohol Be Detected on My Breath?

Alcohol can impair your motor skills and decision-making, both of which are extremely important when driving. Obviously, the way a larger male is affected is different from how a lighter female is affected, at least in terms of how much they can drink before their BAC exceeds the legal limit. 

Because of this, it is best you know your limit before you crack open a cold one, or two, or three if you plan on driving anytime in the next 12 hours. That’s right – alcohol can stay on your breath (meaning it can be detected by a breathalyzer) for up to twelve hours and in some cases even longer. 

Typically, alcohol is burned off by your body at a rate of .015 grams per hour. Depending on how much you have had to drink and how long before you need to drive, you can use this figure to calculate how long it will take for you to be below the .08 BAC threshold. 

Are There Tricks to Burning Off Alcohol More Quickly?

No. Though you may have heard or read otherwise, there are no magic tricks to getting alcohol off your breath or out of your system more quickly. Your liver needs time to process the alcohol and the smell can linger in your mouth for hours.

There are, however, several things you can do to minimize your risk of being arrested for a DUI, including:

  • Never drive when you are even close to .08 BAC. If you are in an area with a ride-sharing app this is by far the safest option.
  • Wait twelve hours after drinking to drive.
  • Brush your teeth, floss, and use a non-alcoholic mouthwash. This won’t help with a breathalyzer, but it might keep an officer from catching the smell of alcohol on your breath and keep you from having to take a breathalyzer.
  • Never refuse a breathalyzer if an officer asks you to take one. Refusing a breathalyzer test can have significant legal consequences including the suspension of your license and even jail time.
  • Remain silent. Other than stating your name and address, wait until your attorney is present to answer any questions.

If you follow these tips, you will reduce the likelihood that you will be arrested for a DUI. If you are arrested, remain silent and contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. A good lawyer will know how to mount a solid defense on your behalf and do everything in their power to get you out of legal trouble with the best outcome possible.

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