Month: May 2014

Personal Breathalyzers

You May Not Want to Rely on a Personal Breathalyzer

Is appears from the dramatically increased sales of personal breathalyzers that more and more drivers are trying either to be responsible, or to avoid DUIs.  Many people buy these new portable devices in an effort to make sure they are within the range for safe driving before getting behind the wheel.  According to one market analysis, $285 million worth of breathalyzers were sold in 2011, and sales are expected to reach $3 billion by 2018.  But how reliable are they?

How do personal breathalyzers work?

Over the past couple of years, many of these personal devices have been advertised as good screening tools for parents to test their children, for employers to check workers who routinely use heavy equipment or machinery, and for the average consumer to monitor his or her drinking and blood alcohol level.  Most research seems to tell the same tale: the accuracy of these devices varies as much as the price.  The average cost for a personal Breathalyzer can run anywhere from $30 to $300.

Are they accurate or reliable?

These devices are designed to measure the concentration of alcohol in the breath, which should indicate the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. These consumer models use a semiconductor sensor to detect alcohol, which is much less sophisticated than the technology used by law enforcement.  In fact, most manufacturers and sellers of personal breathalyzers provide a disclaimer that the product may not be equivalent to the models used by police.

You should also keep in mind that your blood alcohol level can rise even after you start driving.  So it would be a mistake to rely on a reading you may have taken before leaving the restaurant, because you may still be over the limit if you are later stopped by the police.  Even the more sophisticated devices used by law enforcement are not always accurate.  In fact, a common defense to DUI charges is the inaccuracy of the breathalyzer results.

Are they worth the price?

Any rest results you may obtain from your personal Breathalyzer would not be admissible in court for your defense.  Nor is it very helpful to say you were being responsible by testing your blood alcohol before you started driving.  The only evidence that is relevant is your actual blood alcohol level at the time you were stopped by the police.  A device that will likely provide a false sense of confidence, may not be such a good idea.

If you any questions or concerns regarding a DUI arrest or other criminal defense matters, contact our firm either online, or by calling (205) 533-7476.