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Craft Beer and DUIs in Virginia

Dec. 3, 2018

For those who love beer, the significant expansion of the craft beer industry in the United States has brought many unexpected charges of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. Craft beer is typically stronger than regular "off the shelf" or "light" beers. Many people are used to knowing how many drinks they can have and still "legally drive" but with higher alcohol contents the old rules have gone out the window.

Craft beer may be delicious, but it brings a unique risk for a DUI charge. If you or someone you care for has been arrested for DUI in the Commonwealth of Virginia, experienced DUI defense attorney Bryan J. Jones is here to help.

How Do I Know how Strong a Beer Is?

Craft beers, whether they be at the distillery or in your local grocery store, typically have a higher percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) than do other beers. As the tastes of American beer consumers have changed, so too have the beers themselves. Many distilleries pride themselves on creating very high ABV beers.

Americans used to prefer the well-known "light beers" that are always on tap at local restaurants. Popular examples include:

  • Bud Light: 4.2% ABV

  • Guinness Draught: 4.2% ABV

  • Michelob Ultra: 4.2% ABV

  • Miller Light: 4.2% ABV

  • Coors Lights: 4.2% ABV

Notice that each beer is consistently at 4.2% ABV. This consistency has created in beer consumers an understanding of what they, as an individual, feel they can consume and still safely drive. However, many craft beers have significantly higher ABV's, which can lead to inadvertent intoxication.

Higher ABV craft beers include:

  • Brooklyn Monster: 10.10% ABV

  • Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA: 18.00% ABV

  • Dogfish Head Red & White: 10.00% ABV

  • Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA: 7.10% ABV

  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga': 9.7% ABV

  • Russian River Pliny the Elder: 8.00% ABV

Notice that many of these craft beers are at least double the "standard" ABV percentage for the beers many are used to.

Old Assumptions Don't Apply to Craft Beers

Many people have their own "rules" to determine how much they are able to drink before they are unsafe to drive. In many cases, these rules fail to take into account the legal BAC limit of 0.08% in Virginia. Just because you feel safe to drive (and might actually be) does not mean that it is legal to drive.

Others have used an old adage: "1 beer = 1 wine = 1 shot" (in standard serving sizes). They assume that one serving will generally increase a person's BAC by around 0.02%. Many people also assume the drink will last approximately 1 hour in a person's metabolism. Every person is different, however, and this test is often not accurate.

However, this old rule was created around the typical 4.2% ABV beers of old. You cannot rely on this test or your past experiences when drinking stronger beers. Where 2 beers might have been OK before, now you may be too intoxicated to drive.

Legal Disclaimer: No "test" or "rule" of the kind mentioned above is totally accurate, and every person is different. You should not rely on such a "test" to determine if you are intoxicated. You may also be arrested for DUI when you under the legal limit.

Consult an Experienced Virginia Dui Attorney

A DUI charge can carry serious consequences, so if drinking craft beer, be aware and cautious of how each affects your ability to drive.

If charged with DUI, you do not have to face this process alone. To protect your constitutional rights, you need Virginia DUI attorney Bryan J. Jones to defend your case. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case.