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How much is too much? A friend of mine recently told me that his teenage son announced “You can have one beer per hour and never be over “the limit”. Where did the young man hear that? Who knows? Friends? Internet? Television?

The fact is that there is a plethora of bad information out there regarding alcohol consumption and its effects on breath or blood alcohol concentration.

Maine is a blood or breath-alcohol state, not simply a blood-alcohol state.

That distinction is extremely important.

People are different from other people. They process, metabolize, various substances in a wide variety of ways. Alcohol is one of those substances. In fact, the same person often metabolizes alcohol differently from day to day depending on a countless number of variables.

The person to person variables include: gender, percentage of body fat versus water content, weight, genetics (example: the amount of alcohol-dehydrogenase, the enzyme that breaks down or helps metabolize alcohol) and liver function.

The day to day variables that effect blood-alcohol concentration, when measured a breath testing device, include: body temperature (this varies throughout the day slightly and can vary drastically due to fevers and other pathology), type and amount of food consumption and numerous other factors.

Many of the above-referenced variables only effect blood-alcohol concentrations and do not affect breath-alcohol levels. Because Maine is a state which prohibits driving with excessive blood or breath alcohol concentrations, many of these physiological variances are practically irrelevant.

As I referenced in a previous column, some physiological variables are still relevant (interfering chemicals and mouth alcohol contamination for examples). Machine error and operator error are, of course, still parts of the equation.

The point and purpose of this column is to warn you against applying a mathematical formula to alcohol consumption and the “legal limit”. Many websites advise you to adhere to the “Widmark Formula”. Although Widmark’s formula has been around since 1932, it is based on estimates and ranges. The numbers are not precise predictors of how alcohol will metabolize in your body on any given day. The Widmark formula is designed to predict estimated ranges of blood-alcohol concentrations, not breath-alcohol concentrations.

One beer per hour? Alcohol concentrations vary greatly among beers as do sizes. One 16 ounce microbrew may contain more twice the amount of alcohol as one 12 ounce domestic light beer. Do the math.

Be careful and use good judgment whenever, if ever, you are consuming alcohol and driving. Maine is not a state that only prohibits “drunk driving”.

Maine prohibits “driving while impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol and/or drugs”.

It’s not against the law to consume alcohol and drive, but you must use an excess of caution if you do so. Do not rely on mathematic formula. Rely on your good judgment.

If you have been charged with OUI or any other criminal offense, use good judgment and call me for a free consultation at 207-879-4000.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general, not specific, information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author(s) and the reader(s).

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