Is it Okay to Drive After Only Two Drinks? - Sand Law North Dakota
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Is it Okay to Drive After Only Two Drinks?

20th December 2023

Is it Okay to Drive After Only Two Drinks - Sand Law PLLC North Dakota DUI DWI Criminal Defense Attorney


  • Many factors determine how many drinks it takes someone to be too drunk to drive.
  • Even though you might assume it’s okay to drive after a couple of drinks, you could be more impaired than you think.
  • If you rely on a personal breathalyzer to decide whether or not to drive, you need to know these devices are often wildly inaccurate.
  • Police can arrest you for DUI even if a test shows you’re under the legal limit.
  • There are several alternatives to drunk driving, such as a designated driver, a taxi or rideshare service, or a ride to a nearby hotel.

Oftentimes, when people go out drinking, they question how many drinks they can have before it’s still a good idea to drive home. The answer to this question of whether or not you can drive home after two alcoholic beverages isn’t cut and dry.

Each person’s body is different. Therefore, the amount of alcohol a person can safely consume before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle varies, depending on a few factors.

Some people believe that you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve had anything to drink. And others believe it’s okay to have one or even two drinks before driving yourself (or others) home. Frankly, it’s much more complicated than this.

How Much Can I Drink Before It’s Illegal to Drive?

The amount of alcohol you can consume before it’s illegal to drive depends on many different factors, which we’ll go over in the next section. Without thinking about the number of drinks or your specific body weight and how other factors play into your ability to get drunk, it’s important to remember what the laws are regarding drunk driving.

In North Dakota, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .08%. The higher your blood alcohol concentration gets, the higher the fines and jail time are. For example, if you’re arrested with a BAC of .16% or over on your first offense, you’ll incur a fine of $750 and two days of imprisonment. A BAC above .08% but less than .16% carries a fine of $500 and zero jail time.

Factors that Influence How Intoxicated You Are

As previously stated, alcohol affects everyone differently based on a variety of different factors. Those factors include:

How Quickly You Drink

If you drink two drinks quickly and then attempt to drive home, your BAC will be much higher than someone who has had two drinks over the course of a few hours. When someone drinks quickly, the liver is unable to keep pace. This means that more alcohol will circulate in the bloodstream until the liver is able to keep up.

Height and Weight

The taller you are and the more you weigh play heavily into how quickly you get drunk after consuming alcohol. A smaller person has much less blood, meaning their BAC will be higher after drinking less than someone who is taller or weighs more. Someone who weighs more has much more blood. And it will take more alcohol to increase their BAC.

Whether or Not You’re On Medication

There are some types of medication that, when mixed with alcohol, lead to a higher BAC. This includes most antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, and many other classes of drugs. These drugs not only make you drunk faster. But they can also be incredibly dangerous to mix with alcohol.

How Often You Drink

If you drink more frequently, you can build up a tolerance to some of the side effects of being intoxicated. This can make it seem like you aren’t as drunk as you are. However, this doesn’t mean that your BAC is lower than average. Even if you have a high tolerance, you should take caution when drinking and driving. Just because you don’t feel drunk when getting behind the wheel of a car doesn’t mean you aren’t.

Whether or Not You’ve Eaten

If you haven’t eaten all day, getting behind the wheel after two drinks is probably not a good idea. When you don’t eat before drinking, you get drunk much faster. And the liver isn’t able to keep up with the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. This can result in a higher-than-average BAC. If you’ve eaten recently, your body will be able to metabolize the alcohol, meaning you won’t get drunk as quickly, and your BAC will be lower.

So, Can I Drive After Two Drinks?

With that information in mind, it’s important to remember that it can still be difficult to tell whether or not two drinks are too many. Before getting behind the wheel of a car, you should be confident in your ability to drive safely. If you don’t feel that that is possible after two drinks, don’t do it.

Personal Breathalyzers: Are They Reliable?

Personal breathalyzers have become increasingly popular tools for individuals to gauge their alcohol levels before deciding to drive. While these devices can provide a general indication of BAC, their reliability may vary. Factors such as calibration, user error, and the type of breathalyzer used can impact accuracy.

Personal breathalyzer effectiveness can wildly vary among different models. British researchers conducting a study found the models they tested were anywhere from 26%-95% accurate. In another study, researchers tested seven devices and found all underestimated BAC levels by more than .01%. Two of them failed to detect BAC levels of .08%.

It’s crucial to recognize that personal breathalyzers aren’t infallible. You should never solely rely upon them to determine your driving fitness. Breathalyzers law enforcement agencies use breathalyzers, which are by no means perfect. But they’re more accurate and undergo regular calibration.

Personal breathalyzers can serve as a rough estimate, but they shouldn’t be the sole factor influencing the decision to drive after drinking.

Can I Be Charged with a DUI if I’m Under the Legal Limit?

Even if you have a BAC under .08%, there’s a chance an officer could still charge you with a DUI if you can’t safely operate a vehicle. Police may consider factors such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or impaired motor skills as signs of impairment, regardless of your BAC.

So, relying solely on staying under the legal limit isn’t a fail-safe strategy. If alcohol compromises your ability to drive, you may still face legal consequences.

Alternatives to Drinking and Driving

Responsible decision-making can help prevent accidents and legal troubles and also safeguard lives. Here are some alternatives to drinking and driving:

  • Designated driver: If you plan to drink alcohol, designate a sober driver beforehand. This simple step ensures a safe journey for everyone.
  • Public transportation: Buses and trains offer a reliable and secure way to reach your destination without driving.
  • Rideshare services: Services like Uber or Lyft provide convenient and readily available transportation options. A rideshare can be a responsible choice, especially if you can’t drive.
  • Stay overnight: If you’re at a social event and have consumed alcohol, consider staying overnight instead of risking impaired driving. Get a ride to a hotel if necessary.
  • Taxi services: Traditional taxi services remain viable for those needing a sober ride home.

Potential Penalties for Drunk Driving in North Dakota

Driving under the influence in North Dakota can lead to severe consequences, even for those with a BAC below the legal limit. The penalties for DUI offenses may include significant fines and suspension of your license. In some cases, you may face a substantial prison sentence. The severity of penalties will typically increase for repeat offenses.

What to do if you are Charged With a DUI

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, you should consider hiring a DUI defense attorney to represent your case. Aside from ensuring that your rights as a defendant are protected, we will advocate on your behalf for the best outcome. In some cases, we’ve even been able to get a case thrown out completely. If your case isn’t thrown out, an attorney can help ensure that you get the lowest sentencing possible for your DWI offense.

For more information or to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney, please contact our experienced team of attorneys at Sand Law. You can contact us online or at 701-609-1510.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can medication affect my ability to drive after drinking?

Yes, medication can significantly impact your ability to drive, especially when combined with alcohol. Many medications have sedative effects and, when taken with alcohol, can intensify those effects. It’s crucial to read medication labels and consult with a healthcare professional to understand how specific medications may interact with alcohol and affect your ability to drive.

How accurate are personal breathalyzers?

The accuracy of personal breathalyzers can vary, and factors such as calibration, user error, and the type of device used can impact reliability. While these devices can provide a rough estimate of BAC, never use them solely to determine whether it’s safe to drive.

Are DUI laws different for commercial drivers?

Yes. The legal limit for commercial drivers in North Dakota is .04%. This is half the limit for most other drivers (the limit for drivers under 21 is .02%). Violations can result in severe consequences, including losing commercial driving privileges.