2 November, 2019

Like many other laws, drunk driving and blood alcohol content (BAC) regulations are present in all 50 States, with some variations of course. Although some states have stricter laws, anyone who drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs runs the risk of getting into legal trouble. And, even worse, hurting someone else while behind the wheel. If this ever happens to you, it would be in your best interest to contact a DUI lawyer.

blood alcohol content lawyer Seattle

As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid operating heavy machinery as soon as you’ve consumed alcohol in order to prevent any potential problems. Moreover, paying attention to the legal alcohol limit in Washington can help you avoid a DUI. This is extremely important in most cases, let alone if you’re under 21 or drive for a living.

With this in mind, knowing how many drinks you can have without getting into trouble is not always easy, especially if you consider all of the elements that affect the results of a breathalyzer test.

In this article, we’ll go over the legal BAC in Washington, discuss some of the elements that affect the breathalyzer results, and give you tips to help you stay below the limit when driving.

What is the Blood Alcohol Content Limit in Washington?

Not all drivers are the same, so blood alcohol levels vary depending on a couple of different factors, which are age and the type of vehicle being driven.

Younger than 21 Years

Drivers under the age of 21 have a BAC limit of 0.02% due to the fact that they don’t have much experience behind the wheel. Minors caught drunk driving can get arrested and charged with an underage DUI. Which, can result in more serious punishments like suspension of driving privileges and juvenile detention.

Older than 21 Years

For adults above 21 years of age, the legal alcohol limit in Washington is 0.08%. That said, keep in mind that you can still be arrested and charged with a DUI if the officer believed you are visibly impaired. In other words, your best bet is to avoid driving at all costs if you’ve had a drink.

Commercial Vehicles

People who are driving commercial vehicles have a BAC limit of 0.04% because these workers are usually driving heavier vehicles, like trucks and delivery vans.

How Many Drinks Are Your Allowed Before Reaching the Legal BAC?

Even if you’re below the legal alcohol limit, a DUI can be issued if your ability to drive has been impaired.

Assessing whether you can drive or not is extremely difficult after you’ve consumed alcohol. But, by learning approximately how many drinks you can have before driving, you can lower your chances of getting into trouble.

With the above in mind, determining how many drinks you can have while staying under the legal limit is not straightforward. According to the National Institute of Health, men typically reach BACs of 0.08% approximately after 5 drinks in about 2 hours. Women, on the other hand, typically reach the threshold after 4 drinks in the same timespan, but these are not the only factors you have to keep in mind.

Some of the other factors that affect your BAC and ability to drive include:

Age and Body Type

A driver’s age and body type will determine his or her BACs levels. Younger people that usually weigh less are more likely to increase blood alcohol levels after a few drinks. Older, heavier adults won’t feel the effects as much and will likely have lower BAC, but keep in mind that this can change based on the percentage of water and fat in the body.

Rate of Consumption

The rate at which you drink alcohol will directly impact your blood concentration. The faster you drink, the higher your BACs will be. This is one of the reasons why many people believe that one drink per hour will always keep you below the legal limit, but this isn’t always the case, so don’t take unnecessary chances.

Strength of the Drink

Although many believe that it’s easy to stay below the legal alcohol limit in Washington, a lot of people forget to take the strength of their drinks into account. Most calculators and BAC charts are made under the assumption that you’re consuming standard drinks, which can be defined as either a:

  • 12 fl oz bottle of 5% beer, or
  • 5 fl oz glass of wine, or
  • 1.5 fl oz of distilled liquor like gin, vodka, or rum

If you’re drinking particularly strong beer, wine with high alcohol levels, or double shots, there’s a good chance you’ll go over the limit without even noticing.

Additionally, there are dozens of different types of alcohol you can try and our bodies process each one differently. This means that the type of drink will also impact our blood alcohol levels. Sticking to one drink is always a good idea as mixing alcohol will produce various effects simultaneously.

Metabolism and Hydration

Like with food, your metabolism affects your BACs. People with fast metabolisms tend to burn alcohol faster, which means lower blood concentrations. Folks who have a slower metabolism may have to reduce the number of drinks they have per hour in order to stay below the 0.08% limit.


Mixing alcohol with medication is a terrible idea that can produce fainting, drowsiness, vomiting, nausea, and other negative consequences. Even if you don’t feel any different, some pharmaceuticals can lower your tolerance and increase alcohol concentration in your blood, so avoid this combination at all costs.

Overall Health

Metabolism, water and fat levels, and other biological factors are directly influenced by your health. If you live a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, there’s a good chance your body will metabolize alcohol quickly and efficiently resulting in lower BAC readings. Drivers who are ill or have unhealthy habits may find that their blood alcohol level is close to the legal limit after a single drink.

Finding a DUI Attorney You Can Trust

Drinking and driving is never a good idea, so you should avoid it at all costs. That being said, it’s always good to be aware of the legal blood alcohol limit in order to prevent any unwanted surprises while you’re on the road.

Need to find a reliable DUI attorney? Our team of seasoned DUI attorneys will be glad to help, so contact us today!