The Truth About Personal Breathalyzers and DUIs

The consequences for anyone who is charged with a DUI are huge. If you are a professional bound to a job which does not readily tolerate time away from work for any reason, facing a DUI charge can be devastating.

Much has been made these days about personal alcohol breathalyzers. While it is true they have the capability (depending upon the quality of the device) to possibly prevent you from being charged with a DUI, it is imperative to have a sound understanding of the devices before you put yourself in a position where you’re depending upon one.

The Truth About Personal Breathalyzers and DUIs

Are Personal Breathalyzers Really Accurate?

Here in Washington State, if you are pulled over while driving a vehicle and it is determined that you have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher, you are presumed to be legally intoxicated. By and far the most accurate way to ascertain this is with a blood test. But, because this is an invasive procedure and, quite frankly, not at all practical for law enforcement officers to administer, breath tests using handheld devices are the most common means available to law enforcement personnel.

Because these same, lightweight and portable devices can be purchased by consumers, they are often self-administered by those who feel as if they may have had too much to drink and are contemplating driving. However, before you put your faith in a personal breathalyzer’s accuracy, it is important to have a basic understanding of how they work.

All of the different breathalyzers on the market operate in the same way: you blow into the mouthpiece of the device and it provides a reading of your blood alcohol content. The only problem is, depending on the device you choose, the results can vary dramatically. This is because there are two basic types of devices available to purchase.

  • Breathalyzers utilizing semiconductor technology: This is the least expensive and the least accurate choice. They can be sufficient for home use, however, because the results can be influenced by external factors ranging from cigarette smoke to hairspray, it may be unwise to depend on them if you have been drinking and plan on driving.
  • Breathalyzers utilizing fuel cell sensors: This device is more accurate and expensive, and is the device most typically used by law enforcement. But, even if you purchase such a device, it can still be subject to factors that detract from accuracy and reliability, such as improper calibration, malfunctioning software, or human error.

 

Can Personal Breathalyzers Reduce DUIs?

Regardless of the type of device chosen, studies have shown that people who self-administer a blood alcohol content test when they have been drinking are more inclined to not drive if they register at a level that indicates they are legally intoxicated.

Proper Use of a Breathalyzer

Before you self-administer a blood alcohol content test on yourself or others, be sure to wait 20 minutes or more after the last drink or meal. Keep wind and cigarette smoke away from the device’s mouthpiece. Though the sequence of steps may vary with the type of device, the basics are as follows:

  • Attach the mouthpiece to the device
  • Activate the power button
  • Allow time for the device to warm up properly
  • Blow into the mouthpiece until the breathalyzer stops beeping (about four seconds)
  • Wait for test results to appear

As mentioned above, remember that results can vary depending upon a variety of factors. It is vitally important that you conduct the test in an environment that is conducive to optimal conditions, and follow the directions for the personal breathalyzer explicitly. If you have any feelings of unease regarding the indicated blood alcohol content displayed, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

 

If You’re Charged With a DUI

Even if you have taken precautions to ensure that you aren’t driving while intoxicated, if you’re charged with a DUI you’re going to need a successful and highly regarded attorney on your side. The consequences of a DUI can be harsh — possible loss of driving privileges, high fines, even time in jail.

A DUI in Washington State is a serious offense, one that you are not going to want to go through without the help of a proven professional. Matthew Leyba and his team of professionals at Leyba Defense PLLC, are recognized as one of the best DUI firms in the Seattle area. Contact them immediately if you are charged with a DUI.