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Are pocket breathalyzers reliable?

If you’re out on the town, how do you know if you’re sober enough to safely drive? Is a pocket breathalyzer the key to making sure that you aren’t a danger to yourself and others when you get behind the wheel of your car – and can it keep you from ending up with a drunk driving charge?

In general, the answer is a definite “maybe.” Pocket breathalyzers claim to have fairly accurate results, but none of them is 100% accurate. There are a number of reasons you don’t want to put your fate on the line with one. Here are a few.

The quality from one device to the next may vary

If a $20 device was totally accurate, the police departments wouldn’t spend thousands for theirs. Whatever device you buy may claim a high level of accuracy, but those test results and statistics the manufacturer touts may have been carefully selected. You have no way of knowing how well any given model is made.

The calibration of any device you carry around is questionable

Police breathalyzers have to be constantly calibrated for accuracy, especially since the results can potentially send someone to prison. Personal devices get tucked into backpacks, pockets and bags – or even get bounced around on keychains. All of that movement can skew the sensors in the device and give you wildly inaccurate results.

The more drunk you are, the harder it is to get good results

When you take a breathalyzer test under police supervision, the officer makes sure that you breathe correctly and handle the device the right way. When you’re checking your blood alcohol content on your own, user error can skew the results.

In short, the only real way to avoid a drunk driving charge is to simply not drink and drive. If you made a mistake, however, it’s important to find out everything you can about your defense options.


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