Although not common, I sometimes get the question, “Can a person be arrest for DUI when they are hungover?” Unfortunately, like the answer to many questions that I am asked, it depends.
A hangover happens when the body recovers from an evening of drinking. When a person drinks, they urinate more which causes them to become dehydrated. Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from the immune system which leads to lack of concentration, memory problems, disinterest in activities. The headache that is common with a hangover is the result of the blood vessels expanding from the alcohol. Lastly, alcohol causes blood sugar to fall which leads to fatigue, weakness, and shakiness.
A person can be arrested and subsequently convicted of a California DUI if one of two things is true; 1.) a driver is driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or greater or, 2.) a driver is driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both.
Under California Vehicle Code section 23152(a) a person can be arrested, charged and convicted if they are driving under the influence. This means that the driver is unable to drive as a reasonable and sober person would under similar circumstances. To determine whether a person is unable to drive as a reasonable and sober person, officers take notice of poor driving, conduct field sobriety tests, and observe other signs of intoxication.
It goes without saying that a hangover makes a person feel terrible. That terrible feeling can include a headache, lack of coordination, and nausea, amongst other symptoms. If a driver has alcohol in their system, even if they’re not a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or higher, and the hangover symptoms prevent them from driving as a reasonable sober person would under similar circumstances, they can be arrested for a California DUI.
Under California Vehicle Code section 23152(b) a person can be arrested, charged and convicted if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher at the time they were driving.
When a person drinks, their blood alcohol sharply rises until the person stops. Once the person stops drinking, their blood alcohol content slowly falls until they are completely sober. Unfortunately, the sobering up process can take a while. In fact, many people mistakenly believe that they can “sleep it off” and drive home the next morning, although hungover, not yet sober. It is not uncommon for people to be arrested the morning after a night of drinking.
So if you’re hungover, you can get arrested for a DUI, but only if you’re unable to drive as a reasonable and sober would and you haven’t completely “slept it off” so that you still have alcohol in your system.