Most people who end up getting a DUI are arrested on the same day that they were drinking. They are generally stopped shortly after they stop drinking, such as when they’re driving home from a bar. There are also those who do end up getting arrested in the pre-dawn hours after drinking late into the evening.
However, it is also possible to get a DUI the following day, after you have gone to sleep and woken up again in the morning. Many people assume that they won’t be impaired by this point, which is why people are too often surprised to find that they are being arrested for a DUI while they are on the way to work in the morning. They are just driving their normal commute, without realizing that they are still breaking the law. Why does this happen?
BAC does not drop quickly
The thing to remember is that your blood alcohol concentration will decrease in time, but it’s not going to do so quickly. The average rate of decrease is about 0.015% per hour. This can differ somewhat from person to person, depending on things like tolerance levels or size. But this is usually how fast your liver can process alcohol, and so that’s the rate at which you’ll sober up.
As such, the amount of time between that final drink and a traffic stop becomes very important. Someone who gets four hours of sleep may realistically just not have had enough time for all of the alcohol to get out of their system yet.
This reality can also be enhanced by the fact that your BAC can continue increasing if you drink right before going to bed. Some people will have a nightcap, for example, which is a drink or a shot before sleeping. Your BAC isn’t going to start declining if you do this. Instead, it will slightly increase as that new alcohol enters your system, and it will only begin decreasing after that. This can drastically delay how long it will take you to get sober.
If you are facing drunk driving charges, be sure you know about the defense options at your disposal and all of the legal steps you need to take to mount a strong defense strategy. For better and for worse, “But I was only drinking the night before” won’t be an effective counterargument to the prosecution’s case.