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Why personal breath tests don’t eliminate DUI risk

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2023 | Criminal Law

Alcohol intoxication is a concern for anyone who has a few drinks and then needs to drive home. Not only is it unsafe to drive when alcohol is affecting a motorist’s driving ability, it is also illegal for people to operate motor vehicles when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

Those who like to go out with friends or watch a game at the local sports bar may use a chemical breath test to verify that they are sober before trying to drive home. These devices are much like the units used by law enforcement agents to test people for alcohol during traffic stops.

Some establishments have breath test devices that patrons can pay to use. Some individuals have invested in pocket tests for their own protection, as such tests are now affordable for the average working adult. This kind of proactive testing is smart. However, there are two very good reasons why relying solely on breath tests might lead to an arrest for a driving under the influence (DUI) infraction. As such, relying on test results without considering the context of one’s circumstances is not a good idea.

1. Blood alcohol levels rise over time

It takes some time for individuals to metabolize the alcohol they consume. The average person can only break down one alcoholic drink per hour, and the process continues for some time after they finish drinking.

An individual’s BAC will continue to rise or sometime after they consume their final alcoholic beverage of the evening. Therefore, a test performed right before leaving an establishment might be lower than test results 10 or 15 minutes later.

2. The device may be inaccurate

Individuals may not understand how to administer their own breath test devices, which could lead to inaccurate results. Businesses and those with pocket testing units may fail to recalibrate their devices, meaning that there is no guarantee of accuracy for the users.

People may have a false sense of confidence when getting in their vehicles because the results of a testing unit have indicated that they are safe to drive. Yet, these results do not render someone immune to the risk of being arrested on DUI charges. As a result, it is important to know what steps to take in the event that – despite taking the precautionary step of testing your breath – you are arrested for drunk driving anyway.