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How the Body Metabolizes Alcohol Explained by DWI Defense Lawyer

Most DWI cases in Minnesota involve multiple sources of evidence, such as field sobriety tests and officer observations of the driver’s behavior, but a chemical test of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is often the most significant evidence presented. Many mistakenly believe this form of alcohol screening is virtually impossible to challenge, but the basis for attacking BAC results becomes clear once you understand how the body metabolizes alcohol.

This post provides a brief overview of the process by which the body absorbs and eliminates alcohol.

Basics on How the Body Metabolizes Alcohol

Numerous factors can play a role in how an individual’s body metabolizes alcohol, including body weight, the type of alcohol consumed, food in the stomach, gender, and individual metabolic rate. The rate of absorption and elimination of alcohol from the body varies greatly and can compromise the accuracy of BAC test results.

When you consume alcohol, it travels into the stomach before moving into the intestines, which is the location of most alcohol absorption. What you ate and the type of alcoholic beverage consumed impacts the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol.

Throughout the absorption process, BAC continues to rise because the body absorbs alcohol more quickly than it eliminates it. This fact explains why an officer who delays administration of a BAC breath test might get a result indicating that your BAC is higher than it was at the time you were driving.

One way to understand this process is to envision a bathtub with the stopper partially depressed. Water flows into the bathtub from the spout faster than it can flow out through the drain, which causes the water level to rise. This principle is the basis for the so-called “Rising BAC” defense.

Because the body cannot eliminate alcohol at the same rate of absorption, it is possible for a driver to have a BAC that is below the legal limit of .08 percent when stopped but above this threshold by the time the formal breath test is administered.

Chemical Test Results Influenced by How the Body Metabolizes Alcohol

It is also important to understand that the body continues the absorption process for some time after you stop drinking. This aspect of body physiology also contributes to the rise in a driver’s BAC from the time of a stop until the formal BAC test.

Eventually, the BAC will hit a plateau level and remain at that level for 15-45 minutes depending on a variety of individual factors. Once your body has completed the absorption phase, it will begin the elimination stage. Your body will begin to eliminate alcohol so that your BAC falls at a level of approximately .015 percent per hour.

However, this estimated speed of elimination can vary greatly based on several factors, including the particulars of your metabolic rate.

Because the metabolism of alcohol varies greatly from person to person and even within the same person from time to time, BAC testing can result in an inaccurately elevated rate of 40 to 100 percent higher than your actual BAC. The complexities and variables in the way a body metabolizes alcohol provide a basis for many effective DWI defenses to BAC testing.

Seeking Legal Counsel is Critical to Defending Against DWI Charges

Minnesota DWI defense lawyers at Gerald Miller, P.A. routinely challenge DWI breath, blood, and urine testing successfully, which may result in suppression of the BAC chemical testing results.

If you have been arrested for DWI in Minneapolis or the surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to a Minneapolis DWI defense attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible.

The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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