May 5 is Cinco de Mayo, more formally known as the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, which celebrates a Mexican victory in 1862 over the French. Of course, nobody is thinking about Napoleon and military strategy on this day: Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with partying and enjoying Mexican food and drinks. But before you head out to your local cantina for a few margaritas, take a minute to plan ahead so you can celebrate responsibly.

In New York State, you are considered legally impaired with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than .05 percent, and intoxicated with a BAC .08 or higher. Your BAC depends on how much alcohol you drink, how much you weigh, and how much time passes between each drink. A common misperception is that different types of drinks can affect you differently, so drinking a beer, for example, will impact you less than a shot of whiskey. This is not true. Twelve ounces of beer contains about the same amount of alcohol as one and a half ounces of whiskey. It’s the amount of alcohol, not the type, that determines your BAC. And be aware that many mixed drinks can contain the equivalent of two or more drinks in a single cocktail. So, when you are sipping your margarita at the cantina, keep in mind that a typical margarita, based on recipes in common bartender’s guides, is actually the equivalent of almost two drinks, with a 33 percent alcohol content.

A person’s body weight is also a factor in how alcohol is processed in their system. Someone who is petite will feel the effects of alcohol sooner than someone who weighs more because there is less body tissue to absorb the alcohol.

In general, your liver breaks down one unit of alcohol per hour. So obviously, the more drinks you have per hour, the more likely you are to feel the effects of alcohol.

Check out the National Institutes of Health for some tools to calculate just how much alcohol is in your drink, and how it’s affecting your body.

It only takes a few drinks to increase your BAC to levels that make it illegal to drive. And if you are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), or driving while ability impaired (DWAI), the consequences can be serious and far reaching.

DWI is charged when a person operating a motor vehicle has a (BAC) of .08 or greater. Note, DWI can also be charged if BAC is .04 and the operator is driving a commercial motor vehicle, or a BAC of .02 and the operator is under 21. In New York, the first DWI conviction received is a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense.

DWAI is charged when a person operating a motor vehicle has a BAC less than .08. A DWAI is a violation, which is not a criminal offense. A person convicted of a first-time DWI faces up to one year in jail or three years’ probation. A DWAI conviction could result in up to 15 days in jail.

The financial impact is severe too. For a first-time DWAI offense, you’re looking at up to $500 in court fines plus another $250 in surcharges. For first-time DWI offense, it’s up to $1,000 in fines, with another $370 in surcharges.

So, know your limit, and celebrate responsibly this Cinco de Mayo.

If you have questions or need help regarding an alcohol-related matter, LaMarche Safranko Law can help. We are experienced New York DWI attorneys, with more than 25 years’ combined legal experience and we know how to represent you. We’ll bring our nationally recognized reputation, legal experience, and client compassion to your case as we guide you through the process and ensure your rights are protected.