Can you trust a pocket breathalyzer?

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2023 | Drunk Driving Charges

There’s a huge emphasis on responsible drinking and road safety these days, and the consequences of a drunk driving conviction can be severe. With that in mind, “pocket breathalyzers,” or tiny devices that promise quick and accurate blood alcohol content measurements, may seem like technological marvels.

Unfortunately, they may not be all that accurate. Before you trust your future to one of these devices, here are a few things to consider.

Higher, lower and just plain wrong

The vast majority of commercially available breath-testing devices are designed to be paired with smartphones, but studies have shown that their accuracy varies wildly. Some of the devices tested were less than 50% likely to reflect the blood alcohol content (BAC) reading on a police-grade device, and many brands gave readings that were either consistently too high or too low.

Some potential reasons for the problems with accuracy include:

  • Quality: Not all devices are built alike. A cheaply made device may have an attractive purchase price, but it may not really do its job very well.
  • Calibration: Getting knocked around while carried on a keychain or in a backpack isn’t exactly great for the calibration of electronic devices, and that can affect your results.
  • Environment: When you’re asked to breathe into a police breathalyzer, it’s under controlled conditions and an officer’s direction. You may not be as careful with the process if you’ve been drinking and are just testing yourself.
  • Timing: Unless you wait at least 20 minutes after eating, drinking or smoking, you may not get an accurate reading. If you’re impatient to leave, that could be an issue.

Essentially, this means that pocket breath-testing devices might be good for estimates of your blood alcohol content, but they’re not definitive.

The only surefire way to avoid a drunk driving charge is to never drink and drive. If you’re heading out for the evening, it’s better to put your faith in a designated driver or an Uber than a pocket breathalyzer – because the reading on that device can mislead you. If you do make a mistake, find out more about the defense options that apply best to your situation by seeking legal guidance as proactively as possible.


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