How Much Alcohol Can You Drink and Drive in Florida?

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How Much Alcohol Can You Consume and Still Drive in Florida?

You've had one or two drinks, and you still feel fine. You're considering ordering a third drink at the bar, but you aren't sure if it will put you over the legal limit. Unfortunately, the answer is not always that easy, and if you make the wrong decision, it can have serious consequences, like an arrest or worse.

Our DUI defense attorneys represent many clients who have slightly misjudged their alcohol intake and ended up getting arrested for DUI. We want to help readers avoid the potential for future arrests, so we've prepared this in-depth discussion about alcohol consumption and the legal limit in Florida.

Like most states, Florida law matches the federal legal limit of .08. That means the ethyl alcohol in your blood measures 8/100 of 1% or eight parts per 10,000. Several factors can dictate the amount of alcohol in your blood. Here are some of the most relevant factors.

Number of Alcoholic Beverages

According to Nova Southeastern University, a 12-ounce beer with a 5% alcohol content by volume, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor each contain about .6 ounces of pure ethyl alcohol.

It's important to note that some beer containers have more than 12 ounces of alcohol or a higher ABV, which means that it takes fewer beers to get drunk. Similarly, many popular 100-proof liquors contain 25% more alcohol than the more standard 80-proof brands.

Weight of the Subject

Your body mass index (BMI) can affect the amount of plasma in your circulatory system. The more plasma you possess, the more alcohol it takes to reach .08. However, this is not a linear effect. For instance, a 300-pound person does not necessarily have double the plasma of a 150-pound individual, so they could not consume twice as much before reaching the legal limit. Just be aware that with all other factors being equal, smaller people can reach a .08 BAC faster.

Food Consumption

Food does not change the properties of the alcohol you consume, but drinking on a full stomach means that it takes longer for your blood alcohol to increase. That is because alcohol has to be digested in the stomach before it reaches the bloodstream. So, food will not prevent you from reaching the .08 legal limit, but it will slow your approach to that level.


In general, we metabolize one drink per hour. That means if you have three drinks at the beginning of the hour, your BAC will be about the level of two drinks after an hour.

How the Police Can Test Your BAC Levels

The police generally use three methods to test your BAC: breath, urine, or both. The typical go-to for officers in Florida is the breath test. This will usually occur at the station after your arrest, but they may also test you on the scene with a portable breath test.

If the readings are not what the police expect, they may also ask for urine. This is often because they suspect that you've consumed drugs.

If there is an accident with serious injuries to other parties, and the police believe that you were drunk driving and at fault, they could require a forced blood draw.

Penalties for Refusing a Breath Test in Florida

It is important to understand that you do not have to submit to a breath or urine test just because the police ask. Under Florida's implied consent law, however, your license will be suspended for one year for a first refusal and 18 months if you've refused in the past. The benefit of refusing a breath or urine test is that the prosecution will not have your BAC results as evidence, which weakens their case.  However, you must understand that if it is your second or subsequent refusal to submit to a lawful test of your breath, blood, or urine, you could be charged with an additional crime.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol Consumption and DUI

DUI is one of the most common reasons for arrest in Florida. If you've been arrested for driving over the legal limit, you need to contact a DUI defense law firm immediately. Here are some of our most common questions at our criminal defense practice.

Can You Have One Beer and Drive in Florida?

If you're over the age of 21, drinking a single beer and driving is usually fine, but take caution. You are still responsible for your driving, and if you feel drunk or buzzed, you should not get behind the wheel. You should pay particular attention if you're on any medication that has an alcohol interaction label.

How Many Drinks Does it Take to Reach .08 Alcohol Level?

There is no set number of drinks for people, as everyone's body chemistry is different. Having a drink and then driving is not illegal. What is illegal is drinking alcohol to the extent your normal faculties are impaired, or your BAC is .08 or higher.

What Should You Do if You Are Pulled Over for Drunk Driving?

Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice, but there are some things that you can do to improve or harm your DUI case:

  • Belligerent or aggressive behavior is often a sign of intoxication. Avoid arguing or aggressive behavior.
  • Anything you say could become part of the case against you.
  • Roadside exercises are voluntary and rarely help the driver get out of trouble. Chances are that the police have already decided to arrest you before asking you to perform roadside exercises.
  • You will be asked to take a breath test. It is important to understand that this will benefit the prosecution. Without your BAC results, the criminal case against you is much more difficult to prosecute.
  • You should search for criminal defense lawyers near you if you are arrested.

Can You Dispute the Results of a BAC Test?

A Florida DUI defense attorney can sometimes challenge the BAC test results if the defendant was coerced or the apparatus was not properly maintained. This is one of the most difficult pieces of evidence to combat in a DUI case, which is why most attorneys would prefer that their clients not submit to a breath test.

Central and South Florida DUI Attorney

If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in Broward, Palm Beach, Orange County, or an adjacent county, the Weinstein Legal Team will fight for you. Contact us today to start a free case review with a DUI lawyer near you.

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