The Highest Blood Alcohol Levels Ever Recorded

Okay, let's just get this straight right off the bat: Drinking to ridiculous excess is nothing to mess with. Stops along that line range from extreme embarrassment and a five-alarm hangover to straight-up death, with such pleasant destinations as joblessness, the hospital, and jail along the way. Drinking is one of those adult pastimes that is best enjoyed with a healthy modicum of responsibility, and it should also be noted that if one is of the opinion that they can "really hold their liquor," they are probably super wrong.

In most states, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for being too impaired to operate a motor vehicle is between .05% and .08%. It's also generally agreed upon by medical professionals that a BAC of .3% or above constitutes alcohol poisoning, and at .4%, you're likely to be called upon by the Grim Reaper. 

Despite these very explicit numbers and, well, stark reality, there are some pretty irresponsible folks on the planet — people who merrily bypassed "one too many," sauntered through to "really tied one on," and pulled on in to "drank enough to kill a medium-sized horse." While many of their stories are certainly comical, and somewhat unbelievable, that doesn't mean that anyone should ever try to replicate their mind-boggling feats of drunkery, because their survival is absolutely the exception to the rule.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Rhonda Oquist -- .450

When one has occasion to end up stupefyingly drunk and passed out behind the wheel of a car, does not crash, and lives to tell the tale, it's safe to assume that they ended their journey someplace really weird. Such was the case for Rhonda Oquist, who was discovered in Minnesota with a whopping blood alcohol content of .45%. Her location, depending upon how you look at it, was either the best possible one or the worst: She ended up in the driveway of an off-duty Minnesota state trooper, who was perhaps just a tad surprised.

Of course, with a BAC like that, it's probably fortunate that the woman ended up directly in front of the home of somebody trained to deal with unexpected emergency situations. Strangely enough, this occurred during the 2014 holiday season, during a month-long, enhanced DUI enforcement campaign; out of 2,537 drivers arrested during said campaign, the "driveway sleeper" had by far the highest BAC, and she was probably also the absolute easiest of them all to apprehend. The trooper to which the woman paid her unannounced visit had no comment, but her colleague, Lt. Tiffani Nielson, summed up the situation succinctly, saying, "Some might call it unlucky to pass out drunk in the driveway of a trooper, but this woman is very fortunate that she didn't injure or kill herself or another motorist" (via CBS News).

Levi Carter -- .467

The saga of Iowa City man Levi Carter began when police were called to his home by a witness, presumably a neighbor, who reported that they had observed Carter just flying down the street in his car before crashing into a street sign, righting his vehicle, and pulling into the driveway at his home. When police arrived at Carter's residence, they spoke with a man who had been Carter's passenger, who told them that yes, Carter had definitely been speeding (doing 55 in a 25) and was rip-roaring drunk. That much was obvious; the cops noted that Carter was carrying on a conversation with people who were not there, smelled like a distillery, and could barely hold himself upright.

It was upon testing Carter's BAC that the officers got the shock of their lives. The machine first registered .467%; believing there must be some horrible error, they tested him again, only for the machine to simply quit. (It registered "HI," which is probably shorthand for "Way Too High" and not a chummy greeting.) Presented with the evidence, Carter 'fessed up: Yes, he said, he had drunk two Bud Lights before driving home. Reluctant to believe that Carter had the weakest tolerance on Earth, police arrested him for driving under the influence.

Stephen Allbritton -- .495

Driving drunk is bad; driving drunk while children are in the car is worse, especially if the driver's blood alcohol level could kill Superman. Floridian Stephen Allbritton did just that, mercifully passing out at the wheel while parked in a center turn lane. When his fellow motorists noticed that the vehicle was decidedly not moving, police were summoned, where they found two embarrassed and confused teenagers sitting behind Allbritton; attempts to rouse the man were unsuccessful. The responding deputy, a man by the name of Robert Rabitt, noted in his report that Allbritton simply "mumbled some unknown words and passed out again" (via The Washington Post).

Upon finally rejoining the conscious world, Allbritton refused a breathalyzer and insisted that he had not been drinking. He was taken to the hospital, where a blood test revealed that his BAC was an astonishing .495%; when confronted with this reality, he clammed right up, although he did finally consent to that breathalyzer — not that it provided any new information. Five hours later, a subsequent blood test put Allbritton's BAC at a stunning .333%, which notably would have landed him in the hospital even if it had been his initial reading.

James Henderson - .552

Indiana man James Henderson was, at least, not behind the wheel when he was contacted by police in March 2012. He was, however, lying face-down along the side of a road; a witness first noticed him with an unidentified woman sitting by his side, but upon passing by again, the woman was nowhere to be seen. Fearing for the man's safety, the witness called the cops, which just may have saved Henderson's life. He was taken to the hospital, where he posted a staggering BAC of .552%; while being treated, he made vague statements about having been hit by a vehicle, although he did not appear to have injuries consistent with this. He may just have been thinking of the big, imaginary truck with "BOOZE" painted on the side.

Henderson was known to police, thanks to prior alcohol-related arrests. In a statement, Sgt. Larry LaFlower of the Porter County Sheriff's Department mused that Henderson's BAC was likely a dubious new record for his county; upon his release from the hospital, he was charged with public intoxication, because there is no law against completely confounding friendly policemen and physicians.

Willard Ashley III - .690

When LaPorte County, Indiana, Deputy Robert Adams responded to a report of a crashed pickup truck in October 2003, he had occasion to speak with Willard "Bill" Ashley III, who was sitting in the passenger seat. According to a police report obtained by The Smoking Gun, several details of the scene, not to mention some of Ashley's statements, did not quite sit right with the deputy. Ashley and his buddy, Jacob Prawat, were returning from hunting, Ashley said — but, there was a suspicious dearth of hunting gear in the vehicle. Prawat had not crashed the vehicle, he said, but parked it there on purpose before going to the nearest house for a tow truck; upon inquiring as to why a tow truck was needed if the vehicle were driveable, Adams received no response. Then, Prawat returned to the scene and responded to the presence of the law by refusing to stay put, bolting drunkenly off through the woods.

Adams cuffed Ashley and corraled Prawat, but upon returning to Ashley, he found that the man had passed right out. It's a little surprising he had ever been responsive to any degree — considering that when he was taken to the hospital and blood tested, he registered an astounding BAC of .69%, meaning that at that point, he should have been conversing only with the Universal Singularity. Since there was no proof that he was ever behind the wheel, Ashley was charged with public intoxication.

Marguerite Engle - .708

South Dakota woman Marguerite Engle was no stranger to alcohol-related run-ins with the law; in 2009, she was arrested for drunkenly assaulting a government employee, but at least that incident didn't involve a motor vehicle. Later that year, she got into even bigger trouble when she stole a truck, but she could likely have invoked the questionable defense that she did not remember stealing it, or perhaps that she thought it was hers. When she was discovered behind the wheel of the vehicle, she was stone-cold passed out — and upon being carted off for a blood test, her BAC was revealed to be a jaw-dropping .708%.

Amazingly, the police report accompanying Engle's arrest (via The Smoking Gun) stated that the DUI was her first such offense, an impressive feat considering her record. Engle was hospitalized until sufficiently recovered to face charges of DUI and motor vehicle theft; she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in jail.

Terri Comer - .720

If drunk driving were an Olympic sport, then Oregon woman Terri Comer would be a gold medalist. Unfortunately, it is a crime, so she is ... not that. The details of her case stretch the boundaries of credibility, and not just because her BAC may have at one point been a record in the United States. For one thing, when the police discovered Comer behind the wheel of her car, she was not just passed out — she was in a literal coma. 

Straining those boundaries yet further, Comer's car was parked not in a regulation space, but ... well, in a snow bank. Said snow bank was located, as depicted in a police photo of the scene, just yards away from one of those electronic LED signs you sometimes see on the side of the highway; this particular sign carried a message warning motorists not to drink and drive. Comer, whose BAC was a staggering .72%, was likely in no condition to read it, however. 

Vidmantas Sungaila - .727

In 2006, Lithuanian Vidmantas Sungaila — a truck driver by profession — decided to go for a little spin the morning after a night of what might be called "mega-drinking." As he drove his truck down a highway running through the capital city of Vilnius, he was pulled over after police officers noticed that something may have been amiss. That is to say, Sungaila was straddling the center of a two-lane highway, which is generally a sign that the driver is either impaired, or occupied with something completely other than driving. 

Upon being pulled over, Sungaila confessed to police that he had been drinking the night before; he had, he told them, only had a little hair of the old dog that morning in the form of a single pint of beer. It must have been some pint; the cops' breathalyzer returned a reading of .727, prompting the cops to administer several more tests, as they assumed the thing must be broken. "This guy should have been lying dead, but he was still driving. It must be an unofficial national record," Saulius Skvernelis, a police traffic control service official, told the Irish Examiner. "He was of high spirits and grinning the whole time he was questioned." Either Lithuanian DUI laws are shockingly lax, or the cops were too stunned to haul Sungaila off to jail — he simply lost his license and paid a fine.

Nathan Danzuka - .778

Oregon man Nathan Danzuka may constitute a case in which, one February night in 2021, every single version of a person across every reality in the multiverse went to jail. It's not known exactly how Danzuka's day started — only that it ended with him crashing a Ford Explorer full of empties into a concrete barrier, after first hitting another motorist, fleeing the scene of that accident, and leading police on a lively chase. Upon extracting him from the vehicle, it was found that Danzuka had an eye-watering BAC of .778% — and it was further discovered that he should not have been driving at all, since his license was under suspension due to a previous DUI.

Needless to say, Danzuka had about 14 books thrown at him. He was sentenced to 13 months not in the county lockup but in Oregon State Penitentiary, a maximum security facility. He was further slapped with a year's probation, and in what must be a pretty rare move, he had his driver's license suspended for life.

The Bulgarian Pedestrian - .914

In 2005 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, police were summoned after an elderly man was knocked to the ground by a vehicle. When the authorities arrived, the man chatted with them, explaining what had happened in a relatively lucid manner; sure, it was apparent that he'd been drinking, but this in no way prepared the cops for what the breathalyzer insisted on telling them. It's not known exactly what that was, only that they were so sure that their equipment was broken that they sent the man — who, again, was conscious and cooperative — off to take a blood test.  

Plovdiv police chief Angel Rangelov would later tell the press (via CBC) that this blood test was administered no fewer than five times, each time returning the same result: The unfortunate pedestrian was sporting a truly superhuman BAC of .914%, meaning that his blood was literally very close to being one percent alcohol. The fact that the man remained conscious, let alone survived, is nothing short of stupefying; he was treated for head injuries sustained in his run-in with the car at a local hospital.

The SARS Avoider - 1.35

This unfortunate fatality sounds like an urban legend, and it would be easy to dismiss it as such if not for the fact that it is cited in a study by the National Institute of Health. In the 2005 study, it was detailed that an unidentified Taiwanese woman — fearful of the SARS epidemic that was at that time on a rampage in many regions of the world — settled upon a radical course of action in order to avoid infection. Apparently reasoning that alcohol killed germs, and that no germs could get near her if she was actually surrounded by the substance, she filled a small bathtub with a solution of 40% ethyl alcohol and climbed inside for a nice, refreshing, germ-killing soak. Unfortunately, germs are not the only things that alcohol can kill.

The study reported that the woman settled into her bath at about 11 p.m. and was discovered by her family the next morning at 11 a.m., deceased. Her head was not immersed, and there was no significant amount of fluid in her lungs, meaning that there was no chance that she drowned; there was also no fluid in her stomach. She had instead absorbed a titanic amount of alcohol directly through her skin, becoming too intoxicated to extricate herself from the bathtub, and succumbing to alcohol poisoning with a BAC of 1.35%. In an understated fashion, the study concluded, "The public should be informed of the potential of intoxication by alcohol and other chemicals through skin absorption."

The Sheep Thief - 1.6

Shortly before Christmas in 2010, South African police were confronted with a once-in-a-lifetime situation, or so they can only hope. In the middle of a concerted government campaign against drunk driving in the wake of a high-profile crash that claimed the lives of 16 people, authorities pulled over an unidentified man who was driving a Mercedes minivan on suspicion of driving under the influence. The driver was certainly drunk, but he may actually have been some kind of alien rather than a man. Authorities reported that after his arrest, he was found to have a BAC of 1.6% — probably the highest blood alcohol level ever recorded, and with any good fortune, the highest that ever will be.

It may not be terribly surprising to learn that this isn't even the most bizarre part of the story. Also present in the minivan were five boys and one woman, along with 15 sheep that were allegedly stolen from local farms. All of the man's companions were arrested on suspicion of theft, although it isn't clear what happened to the poor, traumatized sheep. The lessons here: Don't drink enough to kill you, never drink and drive, don't steal farm animals, and certainly don't do all of those things at once.