Can a Home Breathalyzer Prevent a DUI? (Updated)


Many people who have only had a couple of drinks often get arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence simply because they did not know they are above a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. Therefore, it would be fair to assume that if people knew that they had 0.09 or a 0.10 percent blood alcohol content, maybe they could avoid a DUI by waiting just a little longer before getting behind the wheel. But with so much at stake, can we really trust home breathalyzers? Are they reliable? Can we still get a DUI?

Home breathalyzers have become more popular as their availability has increased in recent years. In fact, several of my previous posts have discussed several types of atypical home breathalyzers like the “Personal Disposable Breathalyzer” and the “Breathalyzer Phone App.” People can, however, also purchase regular, run-of-the-mill breathalyzers, some of which are attached to keychains. Reviews of various breathalyzers vary quite widely.  So too do the prices. And as with many things, the higher the price usually means a better product and better reviews.

Quality breathalyzers will, in most cases, cost well more than inferior breathalyzers. Costs will vary between $15 and several hundred dollars. Breathalyzers under $50, and those coming on key chains, are likely novelty items. The accuracy and reliability of these items are usually questionable from the start and tend to decrease after several uses.

Another thing to consider in determining the reliability of home breathalyzers is whether they’ve been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that FDA conducts research to confirm that it does what its literature says it does. Lower quality, and typically inexpensive, breathalyzers will not be backed by the FDA. If you are considering purchasing a home breathalyzer, make sure that it is approved by the FDA.

Having said all of this, it is still possible for a person to get arrested for a DUI if their personal breathalyzer indicates that they are under the legal limit.

No breathalyzer will always be 100% accurate. Almost all quality breathalyzers, like those the police use, require calibration after repeated use to ensure accuracy. Some products allow for owners to calibrate themselves and some require that the breathalyzer be sent to the manufacturer for calibration. Heavily used and non-calibrated breathalyzers will likely not be accurate.

It is possible for a person’s blood alcohol content to continue to rise after a breathalyzer reading, especially if they’ve only recently stopped drinking. Therefore, it is also possible for a person to have a blood alcohol content of 0.07 when they leave the bar (and when they test themselves) and a 0.09 after they’ve been driving for a while. If that is the case, you can still be arrested and charged for a DUI.

Lastly, a person does not necessarily need to be above a 0.08 blood alcohol content to be arrested and charged with a DUI. A person can be arrested and charged with a DUI if they are above a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content OR if they are “under the influence.” In other words, you can be a 0.07 percent, but if an officer determines that you cannot safely operate a vehicle as a sober person could, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI.  A breathalyzer may determine if you are under the legal limit, but it cannot determine whether you are “under the influence.”

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