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Can one drink put you over the legal limit?

The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in all U.S. states is .08 percent. Reaching this BAC level depends on a number of factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, how quickly the alcohol is consumed, and the physical and emotional makeup of the person drinking.

When can I get arrested for DUI?
While BAC levels, often determined with a breathalyzer test, are a common factor for DUI arrests, you don't automatically avoid a DUI charge if your breathalyzer test places you below the legal limit. If you exhibit other signs of intoxication or fail a field sobriety test, for example, you can be arrested even if you pass a breath test.

How can I determine my BAC?
The best way to know that you are safe to drive is to not drink at all. If you are drinking, almost all government outlets say that you should designate a driver. Your ability to drive is impaired no matter how much you drink, and the number of beverages you have should not be a had-line determining factor.

Physical factors, like height, weight and sex determine how alcohol affects you. For instance, women feel the effects of alcohol more quickly and severely than men because their body tissue absorbs more alcohol than men.

The heavier you are, the more alcohol you can consume before you approach the legal limit. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, a person under 110 pounds will need to wait over an hour to recover from the effects of just one drink, while a heavier person, upwards of 200 pounds, can recover from up to three standard drinks in just an hour.

Other factors
While physical factors affect alcohol tolerance, a number of other determinants play a role as well. Metabolism, including whether your stomach is empty or full when you drink, will determine your BAC to some extent. The speed at which you consume alcohol and the type of alcohol you drink are also factors.

Most health organizations maintain a standard drink equivalency that accounts for the amount of alcohol in different drinks. A shot of 80 proof (40 percent) alcohol, for instance, is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer because there is less alcohol in beer than in whiskey or vodka.

Emotional state can contribute to the effect of alcohol. Studies show that stress, depression or anxiety may exacerbate intoxication, affecting cognitive abilities earlier than usual in some drinkers.