Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)


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Alcohol consumption is a long-lasting tradition across the United States, spanning generations before the inception of our country. Many large industries and many smaller proprietors distribute alcohol to millions of people every year. 

Of course, both federal and state-level laws regulate the consumption and distribution of alcohol. For example, the United States federal law states that you have to be over 21 to drink alcohol. Florida state law doesn’t allow for open containers in motor vehicles, nor does it allow for intoxication to the degree of endangerment. 

Individuals who are suspected of these crimes are subject to having their blood alcohol level checked, as well as being given a field sobriety test. In all cases of alcohol level crimes, a blood alcohol test will determine if you are being committed for a crime or if you are not.

Read ahead to learn more about blood alcohol concentration levels.

Blood Alcohol Levels (BACs): An Overview

When you are pulled over and tested for alcohol consumption, you are given a blood alcohol test. Tests involve you blowing into a breathalyzer which checks your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). 

Blood alcohol concentration is a metric used to measure the amount of alcohol within a person’s bloodstream. A person’s liver processes one standard drink per hour. In accordance with the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard alcoholic beverage holds 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol.

This is the equivalent of 12 fluid ounces of regular beer or one bottle at 5% alcohol. It is also equivalent to 8 fluid ounces of liquor at 7% alcohol, 5 fluid ounces of ordinary wine at 12% alcohol, and 1.5 fluid ounces of standard hard liquor at 40% alcohol (about one shot).

Blood Alcohol Levels (BACs): An Overview

Effects of High BAC

Common impairments and side effects include slowed reflexes and reaction time, slurred speech, memory trouble and memory loss, blackouts, nausea and vomiting, loss of physical coordination, fatigue and passing out, breathing issues, blood pressure changes, and heartbeat issues.

High alcohol consumption also produces a myriad of psychological effects. National law dictates that the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration level is under 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or a 0.08 BAC level for anyone older than 21. 

Driving above a 0.08 BAC level is a criminal offense with severe penalties. This law is consistent throughout the United States, except for Utah, limiting driving to a 0.05 BAC. In addition, Florida has a zero-tolerance law regarding drunk driving under 21. 

This means that drivers within that age range who have a blood alcohol level of 0.02 will lose their license for six months, and if their BAC is 0.05 or higher, they have to attend a substance abuse course. 

If you have been charged with a DUI, it is best to get in touch with a trusted DUI attorney

BAC Levels and Their Effects

Individuals with high blood alcohol concentration will experience increased symptoms as their blood alcohol level increases. Common symptoms and risks for each level of impairment include:


You may feel less shy, a little warm, and make some atypical decisions.


Your behavior may become more exaggerated. You may begin to lose control of small muscles, such as your eyes. Your visual and physical coordination is reduced. Your inhibitions also become lower, which may lead to self-injury.


This is the current legal limit within most of the United States for individuals above the age of 21. Your coordination will continue to worsen; This includes your balance, speech, hearing, and reaction times. You may begin to experience memory loss and impairment, as well as decreased judgment. Your risk of getting injured also increases; Car accidents and wrongful deaths commonly occur at this level of consumption.


Commonly at this level of blood alcohol concentration, your reaction time and control will be reduced, your speech will be slurred, and your reasoning decreases.


You will experience less control over your balance and muscles at this level, which leads to difficulties walking, talking, and falling. Vomiting also may begin.


Blood alcohol concentration levels at 0.20% and above start to become very dangerous. You often experience a stupor-like state, feeling dazed, confused, and disoriented. You also will not experience pain as intensely, which leads to severe accidents. 

It is likely that nausea and vomiting will occur, and your gag reflex will become impaired, leading to choking. Blackouts become more frequent at this level.


The majority of people become unconscious at this blood alcohol level, and your potential for death due to alcohol-related issues increases significantly. You may also experience an alarming increase in heart rate, irregular breathing, and loss of bladder control.

0.40% and over

A blood alcohol concentration of 0.40% or higher may put you in a coma or even cause sudden death due to asphyxiation or a heart issue.

BAC Levels and Their Effects

Dos and Don’ts When Drinking at Bars, Restos, or Parties
Do #1: Find a Designated DriverDon’t #1: Drink and Drive
Do #2: Drink Water IntermittentlyDon’t #2: Combine Alcohol with Prescribed Medications
Do #3: Contact Family Members if You are Going to Be Drinking Somewhere You Have Never Been Before or In a Risky Situation. Also, Create Quick Dials to 911, the Police, Family Members, and Your AA Sponsor (If that pertains to your personal situation)Don’t #3: Drink If You Have a Personal or Familial History of Abuse

Know what blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is all about, especially under Florida law. Contact Crime Defense Attorney Thomas C. Grajek today to schedule a free consultation.

“Always know your limit whenever you are out drinking, and don’t drive your car if you are intoxicated.”

— Thomas C. Grajek

Safe Blood Alcohol Level When Drinking

To maintain a safe blood alcohol level, you should only drink conservatively. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 defines drinking in moderation as up to 1 drink daily for women and up to 2 daily drinks for a person. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has defined binge drinking as consuming four or above alcoholic beverages for females or five or above alcoholic drinks for males within two hours of each drink consumed. 

Binge drinking for five or more days within the past month is considered excessive alcohol use and places a person at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Low-risk drinking for a female developing an AUD consumes no more than three drinks on a single day and up to 7 drinks per week. It is defined as no more than consuming four drinks on a single day and up to 14 drinks per week for a male.

FAQ About Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

The factors that impact a person’s BAC include their body weight, how fast they drink, if they have food in their stomach, the altitude, their gender, if there is anything mixed with the alcohol, the size and quantity of the drinks they have consumed, medications they are on, their alcohol tolerance, their genetics, and their overall stress and mood.

Statistically speaking, men can handle more alcohol than women; however, the factors listed above can impact a man’s or women’s tolerance to alcohol.

Yes, alcohol is a depressant, which means that it reduces functional and nervous activity in the brain.

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