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How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Your Breath?

According to Gallup, Inc. and Pennsylvania State University, approximately six out of ten Americans report drinking alcoholic beverages. Whether the alcohol is consumed at a friend’s house, your favorite bar, or your own home, the telltale odor of alcohol is one of the first clues a police officer looks for when deciding whether you are driving drunk.

Despite many urban legends and supposed hacks, alcohol on your breath metabolizes, or burns away, at a regular rate that cannot be shortcutted. This means that no matter the number of mints you chew or the specific substance you gargle, your breath will have the lingering odor of alcohol until it wears off on its own.

The Absorption, Metabolization, and Elimination of Alcohol

Bowling Green State University describes how the body gets rid of alcohol once it has been consumed. 

When you consume a drink, some alcohol is immediately absorbed by your tongue, while additional small amounts can be absorbed by any food you have in your stomach. Whatever alcohol has not been absorbed by your tongue or by food will pass into your bloodstream via the lining of your stomach and small intestine.

After the alcohol has entered your bloodstream, it will circulate to all parts of your body. It takes about 90 seconds for this to happen, which is why you can start feeling the effects of alcohol consumption within a short period of time.

Your liver is the major organ that helps eliminate alcohol from your system. This rate is rather constant at about 0.015 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood every hour. In other words, the alcohol concentration in your breath or blood will decrease by approximately 0.015 grams per hour once you stop drinking.

While this rate of metabolization is fairly constant, some things can affect it. 

The following list identifies some of the factors which, if present, could speed up or slow down alcohol’s metabolization rate:

  • Whether you drank with a meal or you are drinking on an empty stomach
  • Some illnesses and medical conditions
  • Certain prescription drugs

Suppose that you consume several alcoholic drinks and your breath alcohol concentration reaches 0.08 grams per 210 liters of breath. At the normal rate of metabolization, it will take five to six hours once you stop drinking before all alcohol will be metabolized and your alcohol concentration will return to 0.00 once more. 

Because the metabolization process produces substances like acetaldehyde that can smell like alcohol, the odor of alcohol will remain on your breath, at least until your alcohol concentration has returned to 0.00.

Consequences of Driving with the Odor of Alcohol on Your Breath

If you are stopped by a police officer who then smells what they believe to be alcohol on your breath, a DUI investigation may ensue. 

While the odor of alcohol on your breath alone is not enough to arrest you, the officer may inquire about how much you drank and when, ask you to complete field sobriety tests, and request that you take a breath test to check your alcohol level. The information gained through these measures can be used to justify your arrest. 

Drink Responsibly, and Do Not Drive While Intoxicated

Knowing that it can take hours before the alcohol you drank will be completely eliminated from your system, be safe and smart the next time you are drinking away from home. 

Make plans to have someone drive you home or take a taxi, and do not rely on anecdotal tips and tricks to shortcut your body’s natural process. Not only do these not work to eliminate alcohol from your breath any faster, but they do not make it any safer for you to drive.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys Today For Help.

For more information please contact our criminal defense law firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys at the nearest location for a free consultation.

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – San Jose Office
1625 The Alameda, Suite 405, San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 217-8818

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – Redwood City Office
600 Allerton St Suite 201G, Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 299-0500

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