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Should everyone have their own breathalyzer?

Technology changes so quickly today that it’s virtually impossible to keep up. All sorts of inanimate things are now “smart”: phones, watches, microwaves and burglar alarm systems, to name just a few. Less publicized is the proliferation of technology that rides along with police officers in many parts of the nation, including Denver and much of Colorado.

Police cars now have dashboards aglow with a wide variety of gadgets that give officers information on directions, motor vehicles, citizens, locations of fellow officers, orders from superiors and more. Many law enforcement vehicles are also outfitted with their own breathalyzer technology that enables officers to test for the level of alcohol present in the breath of a person suspected of driving under the influence.

The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch recently noted that with the proliferation of breathalyzer technology, the cost per unit has dropped, making it possible for companies to market law enforcement-grade tech directly to consumers. People who buy their own personal breathalyzer can then “more confidently enjoy an intoxicating product on their own terms.”

Though the article didn’t mention prices, we found the website of a company selling breathalyzers directly to consumers for prices ranging from $99 to $149.

For those relatively modest prices, yes, many people can afford to have their very own breathalyzer. But there is an obvious problem with owning such a device: it might give an impaired person the false impression that they are fit to drive.

Many DUI charges have been dismissed because an experienced attorney has discovered that the police agency’s breathalyzer had not been calibrated for extended periods of time or because the device had been improperly calibrated, thus giving false or unreliable readings. The same problem could well plague personal breathalyzers that are purchased with good intentions but then not properly maintained to keep giving reliable results.

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