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Standard Drink – Can it be used in DUI?


“How many drinks did you have, sir?”

“J-just one, officer.”

If this scenario seems familiar, this article may be useful to you. The question we’re trying to answer here is, one what? One, two, maybe three cans of beer might not be enough to get someone drunk, but a shot of hard liquor could.

While the police and the prosecution base most of their cases from the evidence mounted against the defendant (their actions, BAC, witness testimonies, etc.), it’s still worth it to learn how the US defines what a “standard” drink is. This way, you can measure how much alcohol you were consuming, which is different from the beverage’s serving size. It is also a somewhat accurate alternative if you don’t have access to a breathalyzer, which you raise as a point with the counsel of a DUI lawyer for your drunk driving defense.

What is a standard drink?

Each country has their own definition of what a standard drink is. For the United States, this is any drink that contains 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces or 18 ml) of alcohol. Remember that a “standard” drink is only used to measure how much pure alcohol a drink has, not it’s serving size. For example, a 350ml beer and a 44ml (or 1.5 US fluid ounces) of 40% ABV (80 proof) spirit may contain around one standard drink.

1 standard drink is:

  • 12 FL oz. of regular beer
  • 8-9 FL oz. of malt liquor
  • 5 FL oz. of table wine
  • 3-4 oz. of fortified wine
  • 2-3 oz. of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif
  • 1.5 oz. of brandy
  • 1.5 FL oz. shot of 80-proof spirits

How many standard drinks to reach 0.08% BAC?

The One-Drink-Per-Hour Rule is generally a good rule to go by, but like we mentioned before, drinks can have different alcohol per volume (alc/vol), which varies among beverages. The problem is that each type of alcoholic drink can have different amounts of a single standard drink, which could be difficult as the packaging or the bottle might not show the drink’s alcohol content.

Alcohol metabolization differs between each person

Also complicating this fact is that each person metabolizes alcohol differently, which is affected by their height, weight, gender, metabolism, etc. To get a somewhat accurate reading, you should definitely get a BAC device like a breathalyzer, or use the numerous BAC calculators found around the Internet or app stores.


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