California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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Alcohol can remain on your breath for up to 12 to 24 hours after consuming your last drink.1 Keep in mind, however, that everyone’s body is different, and the absorption of alcohol and its detection will vary by body type.
Note that alcohol on your breath, on its own, does not necessarily mean that you will get arrested for DUI. Police must have evidence that you were driving while intoxicated before they can lawfully arrest you for the offense.
While the smell of alcohol is evidence of alcohol consumption, police usually need more, like:
If you were arrested for DUI, please contact a skilled DUI attorney now for assistance.
The presence of alcohol can stay on your breath for up to 12 to 24 hours after having your last consumption.2
A result is that police could suspect you of drunk driving long after you stopped drinking.
Consider, for example, the scenario where you drink excessively one night and end up going to bed at 2 a.m. You wake up at a little after noon and drive for a cup of coffee. A police officer stops you for speeding and smells alcohol on your breath. The odor may lead the officer to question you about driving while under the influence.
Note that some acts can help reduce the smell of alcohol on your breath. Examples include:
Not necessarily, no. A breath test attempts to measure a person’s blood alcohol concentration or blood alcohol content (BAC).
BAC is the measure of the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. BAC is expressed as a percentage – for instance .08% (the legal limit in most states).3
Breath tests work by:
If your breath smells like alcohol, this does not necessarily mean that there is a sufficient amount of alcohol in your deep lung tissue to register a BAC of .08% or higher.
Note that alcohol can remain in your blood for up to six hours after having an alcoholic beverage.4
Since alcohol can remain on your breath for a longer period of time, it is quite possible to have odor on your breath while much if not all of the alcohol in your system has been expended.
Not necessarily, no. Police have to have evidence that you were driving while intoxicated before they can arrest you for DUI.
Granted, the smell of alcohol on your breath is possible evidence of alcohol consumption. However, on its own, it is usually not enough evidence to support a driving while drunk arrest.
But note that the odor of alcohol may suggest alcohol use, and it may lead a police officer to begin investigating you for a DUI offense.
While alcohol passes through your digestive tract, it does not undergo significant digestion in this tract like food does.
When it enters your digestive tract, a large amount of alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream through the tissue that lines your stomach and small intestine.
Once in your blood, the alcohol eventually reaches your liver which processes alcohol, or is the organ primarily responsible for alcohol metabolism. The metabolism process relies on specific enzymes within your body (one example is alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)).5
Note that the absorption of alcohol in your system can increase if you:
Note, too, that some drinkers can reduce the absorption of alcohol in their system (and thereby help reduce the effects of alcohol) by:
Yes. You should consult with a skilled defense lawyer or DUI lawyer if you are arrested for DUI.
DUI is a serious offense that can result in such penalties as:
A DUI attorney can help you raise a legal defense so as to avoid these penalties or minimize them.
Note that most lawyers and law firms/law offices provide consultations. This means you can get legal advice in your DUI case at no cost.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.