Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A.

Don't rely on pocket Breathalyzers to avoid drunk driving charges

There's no shame in enjoying a night out on the town -- or a drink with dinner while you're out with friends. If you're a responsible adult, you know you don't want to get behind the wheel if you're too inebriated to be driving. However, given the fact that a .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) isn't very high, you know you could be over the legal limit even if you don't feel drunk.

Could a pocket Breathalyzer be the answer to your problems? Probably not. Here's why you need to be cautious about relying on Breathalyzers that are sold to the general population if you want to avoid a drunk driving charge.

Pocket Breathalyzers vary in quality

There are all kinds of portable Breathalyzers on the market these days -- from relatively expensive models that cost a few hundred dollars to keychain devices that you can buy for $25 a pop.

When volunteers tested several keychain Breathalyzers against police Breathalyzers, they got wildly different results between models -- and none of them matched the results from police units. According to officials, keychain devices are not regulated during manufacturing and don't adhere to any production standards. That makes them less than reliable.

The larger "pocket" models may be a little better. The more expensive models do tend to give more accurate BAC readings. The BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer scored the best from reviewers in 2017 and is considered "police-grade" in quality.

Even a good pocket Breathalyzer can give a bad reading

Here are some of the difficulties with using a personal Breathalyzer to gauge whether or not you should be driving:

  • If you don't have fresh batteries in the device, it can affect your reading.
  • Having the device knocking about in your pocket, bag or purse probably can throw off its calibration.
  • The device needs regular calibration to make sure that it is working properly.

Finally, many experts offer a final caution: You can be charged with driving while impaired (DWI) even if you're BAC is below the legal limit if an officer observes you driving erratically or dangerously.

If you've made a mistake and find yourself facing drunk driving charges, talk to a criminal defense attorney promptly. Your best chance of avoiding any serious consequences lies in a solid defense.

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