After a night of drinking, you fall into bed, fully assuming that you will be completely sober the next morning. You have to get up to go to work in six hours, but it should be fine. That’s why you’re going to bed, after all. Your friends are still out drinking. You’re the responsible one.
When you wake up, you quickly jump into your car to go grab a coffee before work. You need it. This means it’s only been about four or five hours since you actually got to sleep, but you figure you’ll just buy the biggest coffee they have and tough it out through the day.
Then a police officer pulls you over. He says that you were swerving all over the road. He thinks you’re drunk, and you get arrested. How can this be?
Are you still drunk?
There are a few things to consider here, and it starts with the fact that you may still be drunk. Experts note that processing just a single drink can take as long as two hours.
If you just had one or two drinks, sleeping for five hours would be plenty of time. If you had three or more, though, you’re simply not through that alcohol content yet. It takes longer than many people realize. For a lot of people, a night of drinking means six or more drinks. That could take up to 12 hours.
This is why people sometimes fail a breath test the next morning. You could definitely be impaired. It is dangerous to assume that sleep alone means you are no longer drunk. A lot of factors — age, weight, gender, etc. — change how fast you sober up and how hard one drink hits you.
It’s also worth noting that nothing else works. A lot of people recommend things like a cold shower or a cup of coffee, but they don’t make you more sober. That just takes time.
Are you still impaired?
On top of that, some studies have suggested that hangovers bring about some of the same ramifications as actively being drunk. They can impact your long-term and short-term memory, your psychomotor speed and your attention span.
“Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times the day after an evening of heavy drinking,” said the author of the study, who is a professor.
So, even if you just think that you’re hungover and not drunk, it definitely could impair your ability to drive safely.
As you can see, it is definitely possible to get pulled over and even arrested the night after drinking. Be sure you know about all of your legal rights and defense options.