The last thing you want to experience after a pleasant night out with your friends is a drunk driving arrest — so you’ve invested in a pocket breathalyzer that you can use to check your blood alcohol content before you drive.
You may want to reconsider. It could be a lot safer to ditch the device and call an Uber or Lyft instead.
Why can’t you trust a pocket breathalyzer’s readings?
First of all, not all home breathalyzers are built alike, and quality can vary from brand to brand. None of them are exactly like the devices that the police use, either.
Here are additional reasons that you shouldn’t rely on them:
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) can rise after you take the test. Human physiology is complicated, and it’s not uncommon for BACs to rise for some time after a final drink. The figure you get on your device may not account for alcohol you’ve consumed that hasn’t hit your system quite yet.
- Your device may not be in the best condition. Breathalyzer devices only work well when they’re properly calibrated and maintained. If your device has been sitting around for a while or bouncing around in your backpack while you’re out, there’s no guarantee that the figure you get is even remotely accurate.
- You can still be impaired and under the legal limit. The 0.08% BAC limit is the per se If you exceed that, you’re automatically too drunk to drive, by law. You can still be arrested, however, for impaired driving if there’s any alcohol in your system and you’re making mistakes in traffic.
At most, you should consider a pocket breathalyzer to be sufficient to get a rough idea of your blood alcohol concentration — but they aren’t foolproof and they won’t help you avoid a ticket if you’re merely “buzzed” and that causes your driving skills to slip.
A drunk driving charge is serious. If you end up in handcuffs after a traffic stop, exercise your right to remain silent until you have time to consider all your possible defenses.