Legal driving alcohol limit units: Blood Alcohol Level Chart 2023 – Forbes Advisor

Blood Alcohol Level Chart 2023 – Forbes Advisor

Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 5:53am

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Table of Contents

  • Blood Alcohol Level Chart
  • Why is Your Blood Alcohol Level Important?
  • BAC Limits Across the United States
  • Enhanced Penalties for a High BAC
  • How Is Your Blood Alcohol Level Measured?
  • Defenses to DUI Per Se
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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If you consume too much alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car, this can result in drunk driving charges. But, the big question is, how much alcohol is too much?

A blood alcohol level chart can help you to understand the legal limit and determine if you are likely to exceed it and thus risk being charged with DUI.

Blood Alcohol Level Chart

When you consume alcohol, your blood alcohol content level (BAC) rises. Many factors impact your blood alcohol level including your gender and your body weight. The chart below shows your likely BAC based on the number of drinks you consumed.

Source: West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration

For purposes of this table, one drink equals:

  • 1 volume ounce of 100 proof alcohol
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer
  • 5 ounces of table wine

Your body also metabolizes alcohol over time, so your BAC will begin to fall once you have stopped consuming a drink. If time has passed, you can subtract a set amount from your BAC. Here’s how much you can subtract:

  • 1 hour from last drink: 0. 015%
  • 2 hours from last drink: 0.030%
  • 3 hours from last drink: 0.045%
  • 4 hours from last drink 0.060%
  • 5 hours from last drink 0.075%
  • 6 hours from last drink 0.090%

These BAC measurements apply regardless of your tolerance for alcohol. Even if you do not feel intoxicated, your BAC still increases as you consume drinks and you may still be above the legal limit for driving.

Why is Your Blood Alcohol Level Important?

Your BAC level is important because in every state across the U.S. there is a legal limit. If your blood alcohol content rises above it, this is considered to be DUI per se. This is a legal term that means you are presumed to be too intoxicated to drive.

You can be charged with a drunk driving offense even if your BAC is not above the legal limit. However, it’s harder for a prosecutor to prove their case if your BAC was not tested or if you were below the allowable amount. The prosecutor would need to provide independent evidence of impairment, such as details about your demeanor or your failure to successfully complete field sobriety tests such as saying the alphabet or walking a straight line.

If you are above the legal limit, though, the prosecutor does not need to show any additional evidence of impairment besides showing what your BAC level was. The term “per se” means ‘the thing speaks for itself.” In a DUI per se offense, your BAC speaks for itself and is sufficient to show you were too drunk to be behind the wheel.

Because a BAC above the legal limit can have serious consequences, you can use the blood alcohol level chart above to assess intoxication and stop consuming drinks before you exceed it. However, since your estimation may not be exact, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid drinking and driving at all.

BAC Limits Across the United States

Across the United States, the legal limit is .08%. If your BAC is above this level, you are presumed intoxicated in every state. However, many states also have other limits in place as well.

Specifically, most places have a “zero tolerance” level that applies to certain drivers. This “zero tolerance” level sets the legal limit much lower for specific people. Usually, it applies to teenage drivers who aren’t supposed to be consuming alcohol anyway. It may also apply to commercial drivers such as bus and truck drivers.

The blood alcohol level chart below shows what the BAC limit is in every state — including the legal limit for DUI per se offenses as well as the zero tolerance limit.

Alabama .08 .02 N/A
Alaska .08 .00 .15
Arizona .08 .00 .15
Arkansas . 08 .02 .15
California .08 .02 .16
Colorado .08 .02 .17
Connecticut .08 .02 .16
Delaware .08 .02 .15
District of Columbia .08 .00 .15
Florida .08 .02 .15
Georgia .08 .02 .15
Hawaii .08 .02 .15
Idaho .08 .02 .20
Illinois .08 .00 .16
Indiana .08 .02 .15
Iowa . 08 .02 .15
Kansas .08 .02 .15
Kentucky .08 .02 .18
Louisiana .08 .02 .15
Maine .08 .00 .15
Maryland .08 .02 N/A
Massachusetts .08 .02 .20
Michigan .08 .02 .17
Minnesota .08 .00 .16
Mississippi .08 .02 N/A
Missouri .08 .02 .15
Montana .08 .02 N/A
Nebraska . 08 .02 .15
Nevada .08 .02 .18
New Hampshire .08 .02 .18
New Jersey .08 .01 .10
New Mexico .08 .02 .16
New York .08 .02 .18
North Carolina .08 .00 .15
North Dakota .08 .02 .18
Ohio .08 .02 .17
Oklahoma .08 .02 .17
Oregon .08 .00 N/A
Pennsylvania .08 .02 .16
Rhode Island . 08 .02 .15
South Carolina .08 .02 .16
South Dakota .08 .02 .17
Tennessee .08 .02 .20
Texas .08 .02 .15
Utah .05 .02 .16
Vermont .08 .02 N/A
Virginia .08 .02 .15
Washington .08 .02 .15
West Virginia .08 .02 .15
Wisconsin .08 .02 .15
Wyoming .08 .02 .15

Enhanced Penalties for a High BAC

As you can see on the blood alcohol level chart above, some states impose enhanced penalties once your BAC exceeds a certain level. These penalties could include:

  • Larger fines
  • A longer license suspension or revocation
  • A longer period in which an ignition interlock device is required in a vehicle (this device tests your BAC before allowing you to drive)
  • Mandatory minimum incarceration or a longer period of incarceration

For example, in Michigan, a BAC above .17 will result in up to 180 days of imprisonment, a fine between $200 and $700 and the required installation of an ignition interlock device. By contrast, a first offense DUI with a BAC below .17 would result in a $500 fine, a maximum of 93 days in jail, and a maximum 180 day license suspension.

How Is Your Blood Alcohol Level Measured?

Generally, your BAC is measured by blood, breath, or urine tests.

When you drive in any U.S. state, implied consent laws require you to submit to a BAC test if there is probable cause you are impaired. Implied consent laws essentially mean that when you drive on a state’s roads or obtain a license, you are giving your consent at that time to have your blood alcohol level tested in the future if there is reason to believe you are impaired.

Under implied consent laws, if you are arrested, police can mandate you have your blood alcohol content tested. Refusal to do so can result in penalties including fines, fees, and the administrative suspension of your license. The refusal to submit to testing can also be used against you in your drunk driving case.

Defenses to DUI Per Se

If your BAC exceeds the legal limit, this does not necessarily mean you will always be convicted of a drunk driving offense. There are a number of defenses you can raise including:

  • Illegally obtained evidence. If police stopped you unlawfully or violated your constitutional rights with an illegal search, the prosecutor will be unable to use any evidence obtained against you to secure a DUI conviction.
  • Inaccurate testing: Breathalyzer machines may be calibrated incorrectly or used improperly if the test administration did not have proper training. This can call into question whether the prosecutor has proved intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is required in criminal cases.
  • Rising BAC defense: Your BAC increases as your body metabolizes alcohol. If your BAC level was not tested until some time after you were actually operating your vehicle, it is possible that your blood alcohol content level would read higher on the test than it was while driving. You may have been below the legal limit while driving even if you were above it when tested.

An experienced drunk driving defense lawyer can help you to understand your options for fighting DUI charges — even if your blood alcohol level was high. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible for help defending yourself against serious accusations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What would your BAC be after 3 drinks?

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) varies based on gender, weight, and length of time since you stopped consuming alcohol. For example, if you had just consumed three drinks and you were a 100-pound woman, your BAC would be 0. 14%. But if you were a 180 pound man, your BAC after three drinks would be 0.06%.

What is 3 times over the legal limit of alcohol?

The legal limit of alcohol is .08%. Three times the legal limit would be 0.24%. If your BAC is three times above the legal limit, you would likely face enhanced drunk driving penalties in many states.

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Christy Bieber is a personal finance and legal writer with more than a decade of experience. She earned her JD from UCLA School of Law and was an adjunct professor at the start of her career, teaching paralegal studies and related courses. In addition to writing for the web, she has also designed educational courses and written textbooks focused on a variety of legal subjects.

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Legal BAC Limits in Different States, Counties, & Cities

Written by: Editorial Staff

Updated Oct 25, 2022

Legal Alcohol Limits

The information in this article is designed to be educational in nature. This article is not meant to substitute for legal advice or to encourage anyone to drink alcohol before driving a motor vehicle. Individuals should never drink alcohol and drive, and should always consult with an attorney for reliable legal advice.

Before 1998, the legal standard to determine intoxication varied from state to state. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 1998, President Bill Clinton took the initiative to establish nationwide standards to define the notion of legal intoxication. President Clinton called for a national limit of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0. 08% or higher to be established as a federal standard to define legal intoxication. Any person operating a vehicle with this BAC or higher would be operating the vehicle illegally, whether or not they displayed physical signs of being intoxicated.

Following this initiative, several bills were passed, including a Department of Transportation’s Appropriations Bill that would cut federal funding for states that did not adopt this measure, and the Department of Transportation’s 2001 Appropriations Act (HR4475) providing that states must pass the 0.08% BAC law or begin losing federal highway construction funds. As a result, all states now formally adopt 0.08% BAC level as the standard to identify legal intoxication; however, some states may also enact different additional statutes. For instance, in most states, the BAC level applied to drivers of commercial vehicles (including rented vehicles, such as U-Hall trucks) is lowered to 0.04%. Most states also have zero-tolerance laws regarding operating motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol for individuals who are under the legal drinking age of 21; this standard is also applied in almost every state except for special circumstances.

In addition to adopting the legal limit of 0.08%, many states now impose harsher penalties on individuals who have BACs that are exceptionally high.

While the dangers of driving while exceeding the legal BAC limits are well known, consistently drinking to a high BAC could be the sign of a larger problem. If you or a loved one is exceeding these limits frequently, it may be time to reach out for professional help. Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 at to discuss treatment options and help you on your road to recovery. Please call today.

<h4>What’s Your Blood Alcohol Content?</h4>
Calculate Your BAC

States That Have Stricter Penalties for Individuals with High BACs

Most states now impose stricter penalties for individuals who are operating a motor vehicle with an exceptionally high BAC level. The courts often have less leeway regarding potential increased penalties and fines for individuals with increased BAC levels in these states and must impose harsher standards when individuals test at these levels.

Based on the latest available information from each state’s website, the states that have increased penalties associated with BAC level listed are listed below; states that have more than one level listed have additional penalties for each BAC level:

  • Alabama: 0.15%
  • Alaska: 0.15% (harsher penalties can be enforced at the judge’s discretion)
  • Arizona: 0.15%
  • Arkansas: 0.15%
  • California: 0.15%
  • Colorado: 0.15%
  • Connecticut: 0.16%
  • Delaware: 0.16%
  • Washington, DC: 0.2% and 0.25%
  • Florida: 0.20%
  • Georgia: 0.15%
  • Hawaii: 15%
  • Idaho: 0.2 %
  • Illinois: 0.16%
  • Indiana: 0.15%
  • Kansas: 0.15%
  • Kentucky: 0.18%
  • Louisiana: 0.15% and 0.2%
  • Maine: 0.15%
  • Massachusetts: 0.2% (for ages 17–21)
  • Michigan: 0.17%
  • Minnesota: 0.16%
  • Missouri: 0.15%
  • Montana: 0.16%
  • Nebraska: .15%
  • Nevada: 0.18%
  • New Hampshire: 0. 16%
  • New Jersey: 0.10%
  • New Mexico: 0.16%
  • New York: 0.18%
  • North Carolina: 0.15%
  • North Dakota: 0.18%
  • Ohio: 0.17%
  • Oklahoma: 0.15%
  • Oregon: 0.15%
  • Pennsylvania: 0.1%
  • Rhode Island: 0.1% and 0.15%
  • South Dakota: 0.17%
  • Indiana: 0.2%
  • Texas: 0.15%
  • Vermont: 0.16%
  • Virginia: 0.15% and 0.2%
  • Washington: 0.15%
  • West Virginia: 0.15%
  • Wisconsin: 0.17%, 0.2%, and 0.25%
  • Wyoming: 0.15%

Because many states often revise their legal policies and enforcement of regulations, there may be some variation from the list. Cities within each state will conform to state regulations, although some local jurisdictions may be either stricter or less harsh than others, depending on the situation; however, the general trend is for penalties to be harsher and to be enforced more strictly for violating operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated laws in every state. Individuals who are arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol and display BAC levels at the levels listed are subject to significantly increased penalties, including jail time and fines in the states listed above; however, the actual sanctions imposed will vary from case to case and from individual to individual.

Individuals who have previous DUI offenses and display elevated BAC levels should expect even harsher penalties and less variation in the potential sanctions imposed on them. Individuals who have high BAC levels and are involved in accidents or injuries should expect even harsher penalties opposed upon conviction. For more information regarding one’s specific state and how the sanctions are applied there, click here and connect with a specific state government website.

Readers who are interested in estimating the amount of alcohol it would take to raise their BAC level to any particular percentage are encouraged to refer to one of the numerous BAC calculators available online. These calculators can give an estimate, but may not reflect the true BAC measurement that would occur when an individual is actually out drinking alcohol in the real world. Other variables can influence in individual’s BAC, such as the amount of time over which an individual consumes a particular amount of alcohol, if they eat food, differences in metabolism, etc. A fairly reliable online BAC calculator is offered by the Cleveland Clinic.

Determination of Drunk Driving in Different Countries

As might be expected, not every country adheres to the same definition of DUI as the United States. The BAC limits that define drunken driving in other countries are outlined below:

  • In Canada, the BAC legal limit is 0.08%. Canada has very strict laws and penalties for drunk driving with very little leeway for offenders.
  • In China, a BAC level at or over 0.02% and under 0.08% can result in penalties. A BAC over 0.08% can result in significant fines and mandatory imprisonment.