November 15, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver

Today’s story will be of special interest to anyone who drinks or entertains with alcohol, and is in response to a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy who we will simply call “Glen.”

“Most people who are arrested for DUI don’t realize that they are not the only ones affected; families and marriages are impacted, jobs put at risk, in addition to the fines, increased insurance and possible time in jail,” Glen wrote.

“When someone in law enforcement gets a call from a family member in jail for a DUI, it is doubly upsetting, and completely unnecessary, but that’s what happened to our son, away at college. I knew he loved to party and told him to buy his own breathalyzer — and he did, but it was a novelty — a toy — and not accurate. He thought that his blood level was well under the limit when it was far above.

“Some years ago you had a series of articles on personal breathalyzers, and I’m hoping that you will re-visit this subject. A lot of families will be thankful if you do.”

Law enforcement accuracy at an affordable price

In the past 4 years, the retail price of accurate, Fuel Cell — the same technology law enforcement uses — personal breathalyzes has fallen dramatically, ranging from a low of about $80.00 to around $250.00, depending upon features.

We must stress that, based on our research and actual comparison of many devices on the market, the only way to obtain an accurate blood alcohol level is with a Fuel Cell device and not one using semiconductor technology, which is valid only for screening purposes. So, unless all you want to know is a yes/no as to alcohol consumption, look for the words Fuel Cell on the package.

You and the Law spoke with Barry Knott, President and CEO of Denver-based Lifeloc Technologies and Keith Nothacker, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based BACtrack, companies which have a commanding market share in the professional and personal breathalyzer market. Their websites are highly informative, filled with information that is relevant and important for families to know about alcohol.

During our interview, and in all of their sales literature, both CEO’s are clear: “Drinking and driving at any level of intoxication is never a good idea, so to be safe, just don’t do it.”

“But if you are going to consume alcohol — or you are with a friend who has been drinking and plans to drive — with today’s fuel cell personal breathalyzes, you can establish a blood alcohol level, and either find an alternate way home or allow enough time to pass, test again and ensure a 0.00 level before going on the road.” Nothacker points out.

Hanford, based Adam Barresi, Public Information Officer with the California Highway Patrol agrees completely with that statement and cautions:

“It is important to understand that a blood alcohol level is not a reliable indicator of intoxication. Age, sex, weight, medication, tolerance for alcohol, health, medical issues, and the Field Sobriety Test, are all important factors. You could have a .04 and still be an impaired driver, charged with DUI.”

These devices give you needed information

Knott believes that the great value in owning a breathalyzer is information. “Studies show that it is virtually impossible to know your own blood alcohol level. You could feel fine, and yet be over the limit or close to it. As the numbers don’t lie, this gives the perfect justification to take the car keys away from your friend – who blows into the breathalyzer you keep in your purse or car.

“Or, the morning after a night out, you could still be over the limit and not know it without blowing into your own breathalyzer.

“We have so many letters from parents, shocked to discover that their college students, while over the legal drinking age, are driving after drinking and without any idea of whether they are over or under the legal limit of .08.

“Another important application is the testing of employees while on the job, but employers must be aware of very strict legal requirements when administering a test to an employee,” Knott stressed, and we will address workplace testing in a future article.

Own a Smart Phone? Then you’ve got half of a Breathalyzer

A new breathalyzer works with an app installed on your smartphone and is the size of a box of Tic Tacs. The BACtrack Mobile provides both an alcohol percent reading, and shows how many hours until sober. It is so cool that you and your friends will want to be tested, and that’s the idea.

Next time we look at the race to develop a device which measures marijuana intoxication and answer the question, “Is it possible to fool a breathalyzer?”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.