Did you know that handheld breathalyzers are all over market and sold in
stores like Brookstone and Sharper Image? They typically cost about $50,
operate on AA batteries, and are about the size of a bottle of beer. You
blow a steady stream of air into a small tube attached to the device and,
voila, a numerical reading appears on the screen.
Breathalyzer machines determine what is known as your
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), which is the amount of alcohol that is in your blood. After alcohol is
absorbed into the bloodstream, it leaves the body in two ways—breath
and urine. A person's BAC can be measured by taking a sample of their
breath, blood or urine. Each test has a specific conversion ratio to determine
the exact amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. This ratio is fixed, meaning
it does not change based on gender, height or weight.
So, now the million-dollar question: Is this machine
accurate? After being a prosecutor for several years and working with these portable
breathalyzers on a daily basis, I would say no. First, they are rarely
calibrated. Second, portable breathalyzers may misread many other substances
in the human breath as alcohol content. For example, diabetics may have
acetone in their body, which will result in a positive alcohol sample
on this device.
If you find yourself on the side of the road, think twice before blowing
into this device. Remember, this test is voluntary, unlike the stationary
breathalyzer machines at jails, which can be used against you and can
result in a license suspension if you fail to cooperate with authorities.
Always consult with a lawyer before giving up your rights!