Have you ever seen one of those pocket breathalyzers? They are fun little devices. You drink, then you blow. You drink some more, then you blow again. If accurate, they can provide you with an estimate of your blood alcohol content so that you'll know whether or not you'd be violating the law by driving home.
Unfortunately, while they are great in theory, they pose two major problems: they usually aren't accurate and they measure your BAC at the time you blow, not at the time you are arrested.
One device, that is currently not in stock at Buy.com, promises to "make sure you know when you can drive, and when you [can't]." When it was in stock, it was $6. That was a hell of a deal. And with a name like "Pocket Size Digital Breathalyzer Accurate Blood Alcohol Content Instant Test," how could you go wrong?
(One wonders if "my $6 Breathalyzer said it was okay to drive" would hold up in court.)
Another device, the BACtrack Select S80, promises to "meet the rigorous standards of expert alcohol screeners." That sounds good, right? And the top of the line "professional" model will only set you back $130, which is far less than a DUI.
We haven't had the chance to test these devices personally. Fortunately, however, KCTV of Kansas City tested this exact model against a calibrated machine used by law enforcement officers. The results were discouraging.
After the first round of drinks, the S80's reading differed from the police officers' machine significantly. Often, the reading came in much lower, meaning someone could think they were below the limit when they were not.
A second round of drinks brought more inaccuracy. The results continued to vary from the police model, though this time they were both lower and higher.
The other problem with these machines is the timing. You've just slammed a couple of shots and are on your way out. If there's still "mouth alcohol", you're going to get a higher reading. That's why cops are supposed to wait 15 minutes to test you. The other problem is, thanks to digestion, if you test yourself on the way out of the bar, your BAC is likely to rise before you are put in cuffs and taken to the station.
The take-away: though these things are fun, they are not worth relying upon.
- Talk About Your Blood Alcohol Content With a Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- California's Implied Consent: Blood or Breath? (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)
- Defenses to Drunk Driving (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Bicycling Under the Influence: That's a Crime Too! (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)