Most people are used to the idea of spending the night at a friend's house when attending a party that will involve drinking. However, sleeping off your intoxication and driving home in the morning could backfire if you're suffering from a serious hangover. Find out how hangovers can still trigger a DUI or DWI charge and what to do if you're not feeling so well when you wake up after a night of drinking.
The Dangers of Hangovers
Hangovers arise because of your body's efforts to process alcohol and flush it out of the system, which results in painful headaches, difficulty focusing, and distractions like nausea. A hangover's more than just an inconvenience; it's an outright danger when it comes to getting behind the wheel. Research shows that the symptoms of a hangover are distracting and disabling enough to make cruising home on the morning after still quite risky. Reduced reaction times lead to the same kind of risks a drunk driver faces, even if there's not much alcohol left in their system. Even if you feel like you can handle driving with a pounding headache and a queasy stomach, you're putting yourself and others in danger.
The Impairment Argument
It's totally possible for a police officer to arrest you for driving under the influence when you're hungover but no longer drunk. In most states, there are allowances for times when a person's behavior is clearly influenced by a substance but they are technically below the legal limit for that substance. Don't assume that having a low blood alcohol content will get you out of trouble after a DUI arrest. In areas where a DUI can't be charged when the legal limit is not met, there are still similar charges that can be pressed like
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI), which often has no legal limit set at all and is strictly based on behavior and driving patterns
- Operating under the influence (OUI), which is a slightly less aggressive charge that is easier to pass through court with less evidence
- Impaired driving (ID), which is a general charge that usually requires no proof at all aside from mistakes made while driving.
Don't assume that passing a breathalyzer test will set you free. Except for in a handful of states, police officers with ample reason to suspect you're impaired have a lot of tools at their disposal to prove you driving posed a reasonable danger.
The Legal Limit
Of course, many people who have very bad hangovers feel so sick because their blood alcohol content is still over the legal limit. You can't count on a few hours of sleep and a cup of coffee to reliably flush your system enough to drop below the threshold. Relying on personal breath tests is a mistake because very few of them offer any kind of reliable accuracy. The speed at which alcohol leaves your body is affected by many things, including your weight, overall health, body fat percentage, heredity, age, and gender. Making a mistake when calculating how long to wait could leave you driving around legally intoxicated, even if you no longer feel the effects of the alcohol.
The Right Approach to Take
The safest approach is to give yourself a full day after your last drink to sober up and deal with the effects of the hangover. You can either make plans to stay at your hotel or friend's home, hire a cab to take you home, or get a designated driver to get behind the wheel. It's far better to take a day off after drinking and stay in one place than to deal with the hassles of a DUI or similar charge just because you weren't quite back to your normal self yet.
Contact a DUI lawyer through a place like Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham, LLC. for more information.