Excerpt from “How to Survive a DUI Arrest: What You Need to Know” – Mike Chastaine and Amie Beighley

One of the main reasons that people get DUIs is that they believed one of the many popular “drinking myths”. First, when the PAS is administered, many people are stunned by the alcohol level they register. Many people believe that there was no way they drank enough to register an alcohol level that is above the legal limit, i.e. .08% BAC (blood alcohol concentration). It’s very common for me to hear clients say, “I had only one drink an hour.”

Here is how the Department of Motor Vehicles identifies “one drink”.[1]

  • One 12-ounce beer with an alcohol content of approximately 5%-6%
  • One four-ounce glass of wine
  • 5 ounces of 80% hard alcohol

The problem is usually this: bars and restaurants serve drinks in larger quantities than the amount that the DMV model counts as “one drink”. For example, most people consider a pint of beer to be one drink. Yet 16 ounces is four ounces larger than the DMV’s 12-ounce beer allotment. Those extra four ounces can add up quickly.

Another potential pitfall could be the amount of alcohol in your favorite beer. Today, many popular craft beers contain an alcohol content that can be as high as 10% ABV (alcohol by volume), as compared to the 5%-6% found in the DMV model. In considering drink equivalents, it’s not just the ounces one has to worry about.

It is also extremely common to be served “a double” when ordering a single shot of liquor. When we do the math, every shot could contain up to three ounces of alcohol – meaning that, for every shot, you have actually consumed TWO drink equivalents rather than the ONE per hour. Another issue is that, when ordering mixed drinks that contain multiple types of alcohol (such as a Long Island Ice Tea), drinking one such drink is more like drinking two-and-a-half to FIVE drinks!

The last variable involves the bartender. DMV calculations are based upon measuring and pouring exact amounts. If the bartender is “freehand pouring”, the amount of alcohol is usually higher. With all of these scenarios, it is possible that just one drink could put you over the legal limit.

For those who are wine connoisseurs, it is typical for one pour to be six ounces at a restaurant or wine bar. Unless you request a four ounce pour, you could be consuming one-and-a-half drinks instead of the one you thought you ordered.

Bottom line is this: many people think they are controlling their alcohol intake, keeping it within the guidelines, while dining or enjoying drinks with friends, when in fact they are consuming well above the DMV limits.

Mike Chastaine and Amie Beighley are peer recognized an highly regarded DUI Attorneys in Rancho Cordova, CA. They specialize in DUI and criminal defense only.

[1] When you renew your driver’s license, the DMV will send you a chart that contains these guides to blood alcohol levels.