You may be familiar with the new over-the-counter breath tests that have recently become available in drug stores and gas stations in North Carolina. The tests are simple, small, and extremely cheap—you can find them at many local gas stations for just five dollars.
When these tests first became available, it seemed like they might quickly become a party staple, like a gift bag at a child’s birthday party. While the tests haven’t quite gotten to that level—they’re not exactly a craze just yet—they are important gadgets with serious potential to completely change the game for DUI charges.
(How) Do They Work?
There are a few different models of these disposable breath tests on the market, but they all work in essentially the same way. To use the Safe&Sound test that recently hit stores here, you blow into a bag, attach the bag to a vial, then squeeze the bag so that the air is sent through the vial. The vial contains yellow crystals, and if those crystals turn yellow when air passes through them and rise above a certain mark on the vial, then your BAC is above the legal limit.
Most people seem to agree that if these new breath tests can help cut down the number of drunk driving incidents, they should be embraced. After all, DUIs and DWIs are serious. But how reliable are these tests?
Before entrusting your safety to one of these over-the-counter devices, you should be aware of the test’s inherent shortcomings:
- Unclear results. The test does not reveal how much alcohol is actually in your body. The only reading that the test gives is in the form of color-changing crystals, which is not exactly a foolproof indication.
- Inaccurate results. As alcohol continues to absorb into your body, your intoxication levels can increase. So while the test may say that you’re below the legal limit, by the time you’re actually on the road, you could be more intoxicated than you were before.
- Misplaced liability. With this new test, drivers might be tempted to rationalize their intoxication levels and use the results as proof that they are fit to drive. In fact, these test results are not infallible and a negative test result will not count as adequate excuse if you’re pulled over for drunk driving. If you’re feeling at all fuzzy, it’s best not to get behind a wheel, despite what the device says.
Drinking and Driving in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the penalties for drinking and driving depend on a number of factors, from your age to the number of prior DUI charges you have had. In general, the penalties include:
- Fines ranging from $200 to $10,000
- Jail time from 24 hours to 36 months
- License suspension from 30 days to four years
- Substance abuse counseling
These consequences are too serious to risk. Keep yourself out of trouble and help keep North Carolina’s streets safe by abstaining from driving if you have been drinking. If you’re unsure of your own condition, or if you feel slow, drowsy, nauseous, or otherwise unfit to drive, do not get behind the wheel of a car.
Unfortunately, even with all the new preventative technology and even when drivers are doing their best to stay safe, accidents can still happen. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, make sure to contact a lawyer who understands North Carolina laws and will be able to present you with the best defense possible. Call the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett today.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.