Blood alcohol content: What Minnesota drivers should know

In order to protect themselves from DWI arrests, it is important for Minnesota drivers to understand what BAC levels are and the factors that affect them.

According to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, an average of 70 people was arrested for drunk driving across the state every day in 2014. Often, such arrests are based on motorists' blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, levels. While most drivers are aware they cannot have a BAC that exceeds .08 percent, many do not understand what affects their BAC levels. It is important that people have an understanding of BAC levels to help them avoid being arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Once consumed, alcohol is absorbed into the body by the small intestine. It then moves into the bloodstream. BAC levels are a measurement of the concentration of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. This measurement may be obtained within 30 to 70 minutes of when a person consumes an alcoholic beverage.

How does the body process alcohol?

The body uses multiple processes to eliminate alcohol. Approximately 90 percent of the alcohol in a person's system is burned up by the liver in a process called oxidation. About eight percent is removed through breathing and sweating eliminates the remaining two percent.

Although the process begins immediately, it takes time for the body to metabolize alcohol. In order for the body to eliminate the alcohol contained in one standard drink, it generally takes between 75 and 90 minutes. Therefore, if people consume more than their bodies are able to metabolize, the alcohol will build up in their systems and elevate their BAC levels.

What factors affect BAC levels?

There are numerous factors that may affect people's BAC levels. This includes their gender and their weight. Women and people who weigh less may have less water in their systems, which affects the dilution of alcohol in their systems. The faster people drink and the number of drinks they have may also impact their BAC levels. For example, a person who consumes alcohol over a longer period of time may have a lower BAC level than someone who has the same amount to drink over a shorter period. Eating can also help keep alcohol concentrations from reaching high levels because it slows the process of the alcohol moving from the stomach into the intestine, which gives the body's alcohol elimination mechanisms a better chance of keeping up.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that the type of alcohol people drink does not generally affect their BAC levels. The amount of alcohol contained in one five-ounce glass of wine is typically the same as that contained in one 12-ounce beer and one shot of distilled spirits. While some medications may affect a driver's level of impairment, they do not impact their BAC levels.

Obtaining legal counsel

Drunk driving is considered a serious offense, and thus, is prosecuted aggressively in Minnesota. The penalties of such arrests may have life-changing implications for people throughout the state. Therefore, those who are facing DWI charges may find it helpful to work with an attorney. A legal representative may help ensure their rights are protected, as well as establish a solid criminal defense.