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Avoiding a DUI: How Many Drinks is Too Many Drinks?

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Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235

Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

The general rule is that someone who is impaired or has a blood alcohol level above 0.08 could face a Massachusetts drunk driving charge. But how many drinks is too many drinks?

How Blood Alcohol Content is Determined

Determining exactly how many drinks is too many drinks is very difficult. That’s because there are many different factors that can determine your blood alcohol level and level of impairment. These factors differ from person to person and can generally include:

  • What Are You Drinking? Different types of drinks have different alcohol contents. For example, a shot of vodka provides a lot more alcohol than a pint of beer. And a pint of IPA will contain a lot more alcohol than a pint of light beer. Typically, hard liquor like vodka, whiskey, and rum contain 40% alcohol. Wine contains between 10-14%. While beer can contain between 3-10%.
  • How Big Are You? Generally, the more you weigh, the more alcohol it will take to impact your blood alcohol level. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and a heavier person can easily get drunk while drinking less than a lighter person. This can depend upon these other factors or the individual’s own predisposition.
  • What is Your Gender? Men and women may absorb alcohol differently. In addition, the average-sized male tends to be much larger than the average-sized female.
  • When Were You Drinking? If you drink four shots of vodka in five minutes, the effect of the alcohol will be much stronger than if you have four shots over the course of four hours.
  • What Have You Eaten? If you drink on a full-stomach, the effects of alcohol may be less than if you drank on an empty stomach.

Along with these factors, you should remember that everyone is different and there are no definitive rules determining blood alcohol content. Other factors that can impact your body’s absorption of alcohol can include what medication you are on, your metabolism, and even your mood.

One Drink May Be Too Much

If alcohol causes impairment, even one beer may be too much. Remember that you do not need a blood alcohol level above 0.08 to be charged with a DUI. So long as you drink and the alcohol affects your driving such as erratic driving or speeding, you could be charged with a crime.

In addition, juveniles and commercial drivers are subject to different blood alcohol limits. For example, someone under 21 years of age who is caught driving drunk can be convicted with a blood alcohol level as low as 0.02 percent.

What You Should Do

The safest way to avoid a Massachusetts drunk driving charge is to not drink and drive. If you know you are going to go out drinking, have a designated driver, take public transportation, or program the number of a taxi into your phone.

Your blood alcohol level can depend upon a wide-range of factors and it is dangerous to attempt to guess at what point you’ve hit the limit.


  1. John Doe says:

    Wow, what an insightful post….a shot of vodka has much more alcohol than a pint of beer…um really??? 
    1.5oz shot of vodka at 40%abv = 0.6oz alcohol 
    Even a pint of light beer at 4%abv has more alcohol than that, 16oz beer at 4%abv = .064oz alcohol 
    Your statement about shots vs pints of beer is very misleading and very wrong. On average 1 shot of hard liquor(40%abv) = 1 12oz beer(5%abv) = 1 5oz glass of wine(12%abv), of course the abv can be very different but that is an appropriate rule of thumb.

  2. Austin B says:

    while this provides the usual advice and statistics there really just is no definite answer to what is too much (other than not at all)—some states used to (like South Carolina) use what they called a "mini bottle" which was an attempt to make each drink poured have the same amount of liquor vs. whatever was mixed with it. But each person is different and that can change time to time with the same person.

  3. Bill T says:

    Why not purchase a Brethalyzer blood alcohol tester for less than $100? 
    It wouldn’t be my gold standard, but it’s a start.

  4. Dave says:

    Agree that size, gender and what they drink matters but for some it seems like they don’t know when to say when which is what causes them problems.

Comments are closed.

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