WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - You may have seen do-it-yourself breathalyzer tests on store shelves. The portable devices are designed to let you know if you've had too much alcohol. Is it a toy, or a tool to keep drunk drivers off the streets?
We found what looked like a trinket, but claimed to give a blood alcohol reading, front and center at a local retail store for $14.99.
Is it accurate? Would police condone using this? Did it test the limit or push the limit on drinking and driving?
On the town and on the go, the portable key chain alcohol breath checker says it's designed to quote- measure blood alcohol content in seconds.
"I think it's a waste of money," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who is firm on his opinion of the device and others like it.
The portable breathalyzers range from the $14.99 key chain, to others by Sharper Image costing hundreds of dollars. "It may override the common sense when you've had too much to drink, don't get behind the wheel and drive," said Lott.
The key chain is designed for you breathe into it after a few drinks. It will register a yellow light for .05, and a red light for the legal limit of .08.
"If you have a few beers and do this, it gives you a false reading and you have the security you can drive," said Lott. "You have a wreck and you're arrested, it's not worth it."
Not worth the fines, losing your license or the liability if you hurt another driver. "The ability to walk into a courtroom and say I blew into my Sharper Image device and it said I was fine to drive will only take you so far with a jury," said defense attorney Joe McCulloch.
McCulloch believes the devices are inaccurate, unreliable and shouldn't lure partiers into a false sense of security to get behind the wheel. "They are in a real sense novelty items that should be relied upon for anything other than a wink, nod or laugh," he said. "Not by people getting into an automobile."
Keep in mind, no one really knows if the devices are accurate to police standards. Law enforcement would not allow us to side-by-side test of the devices with the SLED-approved Datamaster. "This item here is not what we look at when we look at when we have our Datamaster and we do it officially," said Lott.
That only happens when you're stopped, and the true test of if you've trusted prudence or child's play.
Keep in mind, you can blow below .08 and still be charged with DUI. When considering the charge, the Highway Patrol will take into account your blood alcohol content, as well as field sobriety test results and if you were driving recklessly. For that, there is no portable test.
Know how alcohol you by your weight and gender: Blood Alcohol Calculator