Should I Buy a Portable Breath Testing Device for Personal Use

Got an email from Len, who wanted to chime in on the breathalyzer issue. - Tom.

If a person has consumed alcohol away from home, and he or she is concerned about being over the legal blood alcohol limit, a personal breath testing device (PBT) might control their decision about driving home. Such a device can help avoid an accident, injuries, a night in jail or all three of them. PBTs are used by many police departments across the country for purposes of establishing probable cause to take a driver down to the station for certified breath testing. They're also available to the general public to help keep that from happening. For a charge, some bars even have their own stationary breath testing machines for use by their customers.

You Get What You Pay For
Any person who frequently consumes alcoholic beverages and drives might want to have a portable breath testing device. PBTs are hand-held devices that a person can use to measure their blood alcohol concentration anywhere that they might be. Some models even plug into smartphones with an app that performs all of the computations. They might be told right away if it's safe to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle to drive home, or whether they should call Uber, Lyft or a taxi service. What comes to issue is the consistency and reliability of these devices. There can be a differential of plus or minus 20 percent from one blow to another from the same person, especially on the least expensive models. That's a big variable when a determination must be made as to whether a person should even be thinking about driving.

PBT Reliability Issues
There's a reason why PBT testing isn't admissible for purposes of proving guilt or innocence in a DUI trial. Their results simply aren't reliable. Some units need to be periodically returned to the manufacturer for recalibration. Others simply deteriorate over time. Even the most expensive PBTs carry a disclaimer on the back of their packaging. Others are marked as being for personal or home use only. Remember the reason for that: PBT results are generally unreliable. If you are considering a PBT see our review of this smartphone Breathalyzer. If you're going to get a PBT this is the one to buy. We have done a thorough review of it here.

Trust Your Gut
It's more likely than not that if you have any amount of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, and you're the subject of a traffic stop, you're going to end up at the police station with a blow or no blow dilemma. Your PBT results are irrelevant. The decision on whether to blow is up to you, but remember, if you refuse that breath testing, and you're found guilty of DUI, the penalties are going to be even more severe.
Contact a lawyer
It is almost always worth hiring a DUI lawyer after a DUI charge. You'll have questions, they'll advise you of your legal options, and you can decide on what direction you wish to take.

Review: The BacTrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer

Hey everyone. Just wanted to check in.

Like I said before… Life moves on. These days I don’t really think about my DUI that much. Life is somewhat back to normal. I just paid my second-to-last
insurance payment with an SR-22 and… ouch… but other than that, reading the emails that you guys send me… It’s pretty much like life was before I got my DUI.

But not quite.

The DUI process is rough, much harsher than it needs to be, and just plain exhausting.

I don’t want to go through it again. Ever.

While I have certainly cut back on my drinking, I didn’t quit. It’s a personal decision, some may need to, some don’t, I believe I’m in the latter half.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about it.

If I go out to get drunk, have a night out, I take a l
yft or uber, but what about when you’re out with a friend who wants to get a beer and a burger, and that beer turns into two, or three over catching up and talking about old times.

How do you know when you’re ok to drive?

I spoke earlier about owning a breathalyzer, but I’ve gotten a number of messages asking me more about the specifics, so I thought I’d get into it a little bit more.

Deciding which Breathalyzer to get

After getting a DUI the last thing I wanted to do was spend more money. But I knew that if I was going to continue drinking at all… that I needed to have more information. It’s easy to think that you’re fine after a few drinks,
but study after study shows that intoxicated people have no idea how intoxicated they are. I needed to know.

The #1 thing I was looking for in a breathalyzer was accuracy - being off by one or two points can make a big difference, I had to know precisely how drunk I was. Second, I was looking for something discreet - I didn’t want to have to carry some big bulky thing around with me.

What helped inform my decision
was this review - where many breathalyzers were compared to police equipment - the ultimate test you’ll have to face. The main takeaways were that the cheaper, oxide sensors were not worth it because the results were generally all over the map. No thanks. They recommended a BacTrack breathalyzer that was professional, accurate and straightforward.

That wasn’t the one I went for.

When discussing the other ones, they mentioned how the
BacTrack Mobile version was almost just as accurate, but smaller. They frowned on it pairing to a smartphone, and the “gamification” of drinking - but I took a different approach to it.

Information, not games

Yes, the
BacTrack mobile does have options to connect to social media - but I haven’t, and will never, connect them - not even to the @surviveadui twitter. There’s no need for that, and it’s not something I want to encourage. However, it does keep a running log of your readings, with timestamps, so that you can track how your body processes alcohol and get an idea of how many drinks does it get to make you legally drunk, not just feeling drunk.


With this information, you can start to truly understand how much you can drink, and how quickly you can get sober.
This is information that you have needed since you first started drinking. Any child I have is going to get a breathalyzer for their 21st birthday so they can start understanding how alcohol affects them, and how to drink responsibly. It’s utterly ridiculous that we put such weight and shame on people for violating this sort of thing, when almost nobody has this sort of information. The person who has made you feel bad about your DUI has almost certainly driven over the limit and not even known it. Most people who are driving at .09 and .10 have no clue they’re over the limit. Before I started using the BacTrack, I thought I was fine when I wasn’t, and I had no idea how long it could take to sober up from a few drinks, or that sometimes I was waking up and starting the next day still drunk.

Without the information, you’re just guessing, and guessing doesn’t work.


The BacTrack mobile smartphone breathalyzer is easy to work, easy to carry, and easy to hide. It does have a bright blue LED, but that’s easily covered with your fingers. I found myself easily using it while in a bathroom, walking down the street, or elsewhere. Nobody picked up on it.

To use you simply turn it on, pair it with your phone over bluetooth, and launch the app. The app requires you to guess your BAC, which many have dismissed as making it like a game, but again, I see that as an important part - you need to see how accurate you are as to how you feel to start getting a base. You’ll find that you’re often not fine when you believe you are, which is one of the best things that you can learn from a breathalyzer.

There’s the option for to use a detachable, washable mouthpiece with the unit. I opted not to, I blew directly into the machine. I don’t really plan on sharing it, and I don’t need to put anything in my mouth to blow.

The most difficult part about using the breathalyzer is getting used to the routine. You can’t just suck down a whiskey sour and then blow on it expecting instant results. You have to wait 15 - 20 minutes after your last drink, wash your mouth out with water, and not burp, hiccup, or vomit during this time. Residual alcohol in your mouth will give you a higher rating (better higher than lower). You have to also understand that all the alcohol has not been absorbed into your system after that 15 - 20 minutes. The boilermaker in your stomach is still creeping into your bloodstream for a good hour to hour-and-a-half after you drink it. Important to remember that so that you don’t take off too quickly after a drink, and good to know so that you can monitor how quickly the alcohol gets into your system.


The BacTrack comes with a carrying pouch, but I never used it. I just kept it in my jacket or glovebox and never had any sort of problem with it. Nothing got into it, or set it off weird. The charges last a good time, and charge via USB, so you can charge it in your car if you really need to.

The only thing that’s difficult is eventually the fuel cell needs to be recalibrated and sadly that’s not something you can do yourself. You have to send it back to the company and give them $25. You’re supposed to do this annually, but you can push it a little bit I found. However, it’s not a bad idea to line up recalibration with your #SoberSeptember.


Given the price, size, and accuracy, I have found the
BacTrack mobile smartphone breathalyzer to be an incredibly useful device. It’s armed me with the knowledge I need to understand how alcohol affects me, and when I am or am not ok to operate a vehicle. Had I gotten this years before maybe I would not be in the situation that I am right now. That said, I’m hoping that it will help me not be in this sort of situation in the future. It’s easy to take with me, it’s easy to use. There’s no excuse not to be informed anymore.

Review: The Smart Start SSI-20/30 IID

There’s nothing fun about the Ignition Interlock Device experience. The shopping for it is incredibly difficult, and a sheer hassle. Once you figure out which one you “want”, you still have to deal with the hassle of it all - making sure that your regular appointments work with your schedule, avoiding all the nickel-and-dime charges they throw at you for a wide variety of things.

It’s a process that leaves you exhausted and drained of money. That’s what they want. They want you to want to avoid getting another DUI at all costs. I feel they go much too far, and that the lesson has been learned much before you’re dealing with these companies.

They work mostly in secret, no totals given, hidden fees, it’s an ordeal.

Once I talked to a handful of companies over the phone, I did the math the best I could with all the information they were willing to give me and settled on one that seemed to be the cheapest and had an installer near my house.

The feeling of going in to get the thing installed is awful. A deep pit in your stomach, you feel the punishment. It’s not as bad as it could be, the installers do this all the time. You’re just another customer to them. Heck, they’re happy that you did this.

The installer I went to was inside a car accessories store that mostly sold alarms, aftermarket stereos, and car modifications. I had always wondered how these places stayed in business. This is how.

The Smart Start SSI-20/30
I could have paid more for a rental of another, more advanced unit, but I felt sucked dry enough already by the process that I went for this one. It’s a very basic unit, and I just wanted to comply with the law. I didn’t need features.

The SSI-20/30 takes about an hour to install in your car. They disassemble part of your dashboard below your steering wheel to install a hidden computer unit inside of your vehicle (don’t worry, modern cars are made to be taken apart like this, installation does no damage). Then from there a large, heavy, coiled cable comes out and attaches to the head unit. I found the cable to be the pretty annoying, it would have to be draped over my leg (I kept my unit in the center cup holder) the whole thing. It never got in the way of driving, but, I could always feel it there.

When you turn on your car you turn your key and… nothing happens. The electrical systems turn on, but you car doesn’t turn over, no matter how much you turn the key. Instead you have to wait 30-40 seconds for the Smart Start to initialize, and become ready to test your breath. It’s annoying and you find yourself trying to minimize stops that you have to make because it’s frustrating to sit there and wait for it. If you get back to your car within 15 minutes, give or take, the unit stays on, so it’s just blow-and-go. Otherwise it shuts off and you have to wait every time.

Blowing into the unit takes some practice. It takes a
large volume of air to get going. Eventually I found that I could blow a more focused breath of air and not have to breath so much, but it took some getting used to. You breathe a big breath for 3 seconds, then start humming additionally for another 5 seconds while still blowing to get a clean reading. It’s a balancing act, for sure, but eventually you get used to it. Some other company’s units just take a 3 second breath, which in retrospect, might have been worth it, depending on how much it was. Early mornings, times when I was tired, or in a hurry often lead to botched tests. You don’t get any points against you for a breathing error, as long as you complete the test within the 5 minutes allotted for a rolling retest. If you have a breathing error and end up turning off the car in frustration, you don’t get a point for that, either.

Rolling retests come at 5 minutes into your trip, and then randomly within 20 minute intervals afterwards. You could have to blow to start, then at 5 minutes, and then 10 minutes later or 20 minutes later. You never know. I understand the reasoning for this, but it would’ve been nice and allowed me to plan some of my trips better. A couple of times it took longer than 20 minutes for a retest, which was kind of nice, but made me worry that something was wrong. You kind of can’t win.

Once you have the breathing pattern down, you can take a rolling retest while driving. You’re given five minutes to retest and the screen counts down the time. You’re supposed to have enough time to pull over and retest, but I never did. I doubt many people ever have. Such a hassle. The beep that comes from the unit is
loud. I never had a problem hearing it over my music or anything.

One of the biggest questions asked about the IID is whether passengers in your car will notice that you have it. They
absolutely will. There’s no hiding it. It’s a large clunky unit that doesn’t fit many places in the car (It would fit into a place for my phones without the mouthpiece, but putting the mouthpiece on while driving would’ve been too difficult. I would keep it there, out of sight when the car was stopped and assemble it back together while waiting for it to start back up. I always beat it.) The beeps are loud, and the breathing process is involved, and frequent. Any person in your car will be very aware of it. So, you either need to have understanding passengers or a good list of excuses as to why you can’t give somebody a ride. Those who knew what I was going through did find the unit amusing.

Some places will rent you a cover for the interlock, disguising it as a soda can or other drink to spare you the embarrassment of other drivers seeing you. This usually comes with an an additional warranty or some other weird way of charging you a good amount of money. You can’t buy them and they don’t tell you how much it would cost. I found that I didn’t need one. The breathing process is 8 seconds, and to my knowledge, I never got “caught in the act”. If I did, it’s by somebody who’s probably long forgotten it. Speeding up or slowing down, getting next to a car bigger or smaller than yours is an effective way to keep it hidden from your fellow drivers. I never felt that I needed a cover.

The interface of the 20/30 leaves a lot to be desired. A simple menu button allowing you to go through the information you need (remaining points, appointment date) is done through using codes that don’t always work. It was a source of frustration in the unit that the information was sometimes inaccessible. There’s no reason it needs to be that hard to access. There’s no settings to change on the unit (maybe for the installer, not for clients) so the unit could easily be simpler.

Another drawback is that when you successfully blow, you’re never given your BAC reading. This, to me, is a major failing of the unit. Most people will not purchase additional breathalyzers (although, they should) so they will not know what their alcohol rating is - just pass, warn, or fail. How close were they on a warn? People should know, so they can learn. That said, I found the unit to be accurate in it’s readings (One time I waited for my BAC to come down enough to start the unit, and it gave me a rolling retest every 5 minutes trying to catch me and give me a violation. Fortunately my BAC was falling and I had my breathalyzer so I knew I would be ok.)

Getting the unit calibrated is easy, takes about 10 minutes. They try to make you come in every month for whatever reason, but you’re allowed to be calibrated for every two months. I went that option because, why not? It’s the most they can legally give you. They’ll try to get you for a late fee if you’re late to your appointment, so be sure to be on time, and don’t miss it, things get hairy from there (I never did).

Some people complain about the drain on their battery from the unit. I didn’t find any significant draw, even when leaving my car for two weeks for a trip. The computer unit hidden away is always “on”, so it’s drawing power to keep all the records of your readings and attempts active. There is probably a better way to do this, but I’m not a computer engineer. Some people have had their batteries die from this, I personally didn’t.

Removing the unit takes about fifteen minutes. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was out of there. It was quite a relief.


Overall the unit gets the job done. It’s never pleasant, it’s never particularly easy, but it satisfies the requirements before you. I wish it gave BAC readings, as keeping you in the dark is senseless regarding your alcohol education (although, that may be what they want). Looking around online I’ve seen all sorts of horror stories about malfunctioning units, mine worked fine. Maybe I was lucky.

This unit, with service cost less than other ones I was quoted. Despite my asking questions there still was an additional fee that I wasn’t aware of until it was time to pay ($7/mo warranty, so it wasn’t terrible, but still). They tried to hide the removal fee from me, but once I knew to ask about it, I was told. I never had to deal with a lockout, and found the unit was fair.

Rating: It’s fine. It gets the job done, and that's about it.

​Is the Ignition Interlock effective?

When you’re driving down the road at 45 miles per hour and you hear the beep go off for your rolling retest you automatically grab the device and blow and hum just to make the thing shut up (it is very loud).

As you do this for months on end, you have to wonder - is this safe? And more importantly: is this really working?

Technically, you’re supposed to pull over to the side of the road to use the IID, but I can’t imagine anybody takes that much time to do it.

But is it effective?

In my own experiences, it did stop me from driving with alcohol in my system - if I knew I was going to end up having a few drinks, I’d grab a
lyft and leave my car behind, because I didn’t want to have my car stuck somewhere where I couldn’t operate it.

But does it teach you anything?

The argument is that the Ignition Interlock teaches you to not drink and drive but not allowing it. I mostly learned to resent the damn thing going off and having to take a huge breath to blow into it (I think I did increase my lung capacity, though).

If you think that it doesn’t work, well,
the California DMV, who forces the thing on you, released a study that agrees with you…

The results of this outcome study clearly show that IIDs are not effective in reducing DUI convictions or incidents for first DUI offenders, even those with high BACs at arrest. While their high blood alcohol levels suggest that they are an alcohol-dependent population, ignition interlock does not appear to be the answer to reducing their drinking and driving risk. This conclusion finds support in a study that interviewed drivers, and found that first offenders were more hostile to interlocks and regarded them as less useful, compared to repeat offenders (Baker, 1988). Because there is no evidence that interlocks are an effective traffic safety measure for first DUI offenders, the use of the devices EFFECTIVENESS OF IGNITION INTERLOCK IN CA 19 should not be emphasized, even for those first offenders with high BACs at the time of arrest, as is currently done in California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23575 (a)(1).

It's frustrating, for sure, but what can you do?

Just get through it, and move on.

Shopping for the Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

When you get that big scary letter of the Order of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) it will give you a list of approved, certified installers - I advise you to look each and every single one of them up. Getting the interlock is a difficult, complicated, and confusing process - and that’s all be design. The interlock companies want it to be difficult as can be, withholding information, giving you the run around, and doing everything they can to squeeze every last dime out of you.

What You Can Look Up Online

Most interlock companies websites are lacking a lot of information, instead asking you to put in all of your contact information - including some sensitive private information - in hopes of getting you on the phone with a salesperson. While the salesperson has some use (they can actually check with the DMV to make sure you’re in an eligible period, and theoretically answer questions) they slow down the process and make the task at hand very confusing.

But, some are nice to put
some information online. You’ll never get a straightforward price from the website or the salesperson, but you can try to get as close as possible. The websites I found were usually pretty good at disclosing the location of service centers for interlocks - each company deals with a handful of mechanics, car accessory dealers, etc. (you ever wonder how those tire stores or car stereo places stay in business, here it is) and that’s it. If you find an interlock company you like, but they’re not convenient for you, don’t go with them. You will have to visit the servicer multiple times over the installation (minimum 5), and it’s best to not have to travel all the way across town for this.

All of these places will charge you an extra fee if you’re late or miss your appointment. It’s very important to have an easy place to get to. If you miss your appointment you may end up locked out of your car and forced to tow it to the servicer. Closer is better.

What to Ask on the Phone

After you’ve eliminated some places you’ll have to end up talking on the phone with a number of salespeople. Do not let this part of the process put you off. I hate talking on the phone, but people’s unwillingness to discuss the difficult part of their lives plays into these people’s hands. Don’t let them take advantage of this.

Every interlock place claims to be the cheapest around - but it’s all subjective. Many places will say the first month is free with installation, or offer a free installation, or some other way to cloud what the device will actually cost.
Take lots of notes. The worst offenders are the ones who offered “No hidden fees”. I felt good about them, until talking with another provider they mentioned a removal fee. No hidden fees place did not mention this. I called them back and asked about it, and the removal free was massive. I asked them about it, and they claimed that the fee wasn’t hidden because they would mention it when asked. When talking with a lot of these salespeople I’d be asking myself, “wait, I’m the criminal here?”.

So, after a lot of calling I found myself with what I believe to be the best possible outcome for myself. Again, I don’t know the others, but in asking around, I believe I found myself the most reasonable - close, and relatively cheap to some of them. The back of the envelope math I did based on quotes had all them coming relatively close to each other… Around $450 total for 5 months, but I feel this space is shifting all of the time. Best to call around for yourself, but feel a little bit easy that getting the worst deal won’t mean a difference of hundreds of dollars. Still, this process is bleeding you dry, let’s save every dime we can.

I’ve compiled a list of the various fees I have found in my shopping and subsequent bills for the interlock device. As more people enter the business, as regulations change, I’m sure there will be more.
When in doubt ask questions. Ask enough questions to be a pain in the salespersons side, until they give you the answers you deserve. They are doing their best to confuse and mislead you - if you are unsatisfied or confused by their answers let them know. At the end of the day, they’re fighting for a somewhat limited amount of customers. They need you. You can still go somewhere else.

Known Possible Fees:

  • Installation Fee - A lot of places will use this as the big smoke and mirrors to what the interlock will end up costing you. A lot of places will claim that it’s free, only to give you a rebate on either your first or last month (double check and hold them to it if that’s the case) or have a reduced fee if you pay certain months in advance. This is so that it’s super hard to compare prices. Usually if the installation is free or reduced cost your monthly cost is going to be higher (not always the case, though).
  • Late/Missed Appointment Fee - Most people find out about this after they’ve made their appointments, the rep just adds a little “oh by the way, don’t be late!”. It’s always a little twist in your side - as you’re never allowed to charge them a fee when they miss the appointment. An unscrupulous (read:most) places can even charge you for being late even if you get there late and they’re still working on the person in front of you. So they had no downtime, but they still get to stick you for the money. Get there early every time. Don’t give them the pleasure.
  • Monthly Fee - Every month that you have the IID you have to pay for it. It’s a crappy rental, and when you see the fees that you’re paying for it, you’ll wish you’d gotten into the IID business. This, however, is a consistent fee that is the most straightforward of what you’ll end up paying. There’s not much that will change about this, unless you get a free first or last month.
  • Upgraded Unit Fee - Not all interlock devices are the same - they all require different blow patterns - some short, some long, some complicated. Some states like Oregon require devices come equipped with a camera that takes a picture of the person blowing the device every time, in order to prevent a passenger from blowing the device for an intoxicated driver. In some instances a more restrictive device - like one with a camera - has less of a cost than a more simpler device (some states there is no difference, some states it costs more). Explore all your options and decide how much restriction you can tolerate if these options are available to you.
  • Keyless Start Unit Fee - If you have a push to start or remote start car, be prepared to pay more - both monthly and in installation and removal fees. The upside? Some places are able to provide you with a remote interlock that you carry with you. So you can blow and start your car remotely, just as you did before. I imagine the remote part is all sorts of handy, but, alas, I’m still in the key-ignition days.
  • Disguised Unit - Some places try to “help you out” by offering a slipcover for your interlock unit that allows it to supposedly look like a can of soda. In practice this is a method to capitalize off of your embarassment and further profit off of you. Most of the ads for this covers make it seem as the unit will look like a 12 oz can of soda, while in practice they und up looking roughly the size of a 7-Eleven Big Gulp 32 oz jug. Some places will outright sell it to you (think of all the times you can reuse it!) and some will rent it to you for additional monthly charges, and others will give it to you free if you purchase an additional insurance policy. I say don’t bother. Even the biggest of IIDs is not very visible while driving, you will not be using it that often in view of other people, and it will not disguise the fact that you have an IID from a passenger. But, if you want it, be sure you know the total cost of it - either by purchase, rental, or attached to something else.
  • Download/Service Fee - You have to visit the place that installs your interlock device every 60 days to calibrate it and download the record of violations from the device. Some places will charge you $10-$15 a visit for this, others include it in their monthly fees. A lot of places will not tell you about this fee until you see it on your bill. Ask about it. Also make sure that their system will allow you to visit every 60 days, as some places only charge on a monthly basis - meaning you will have to dedicate more time to visiting your servicer, more possible late/missed appointment fees, more possible lockouts, more possible service fees. I know I wanted to visit this place as least as possible.
  • Lockout Fee - Every month (or two months if bi-monthly) your IID has a lockout date. Theory goes that the machine needs to be calibrated in order to be an accurate detection of alcohol in your breath. The court dictates that the machine be calibrated at least every 60 days, but the companies take it one step further and make it so that your car can completely lock you out if you miss your appointment - so you now have to tow your car to the service center and then pay them an additional fee to get your system back working again. Don’t miss your appointments. There can be some additional blowback from the court if you do, as it’s a violation of your restricted license… just don’t do it. Don’t get locked out. There’s no good reason to.
  • Lockout Code Fee - Some interlock devices have a keycode that you can punch in to give you an engine start, or period of engine starts, if, for some reason, you miss your appointment and get locked out, so that you can get to the service center and get your IID recalibrated. Of course, they’ll charge you a fee for this code. Don’t miss your appointments.
  • Violation Fee - If you have enough violations - either for too much alcohol in your system when trying to start your car (again, you should have your own breathalyzer so that you can check before you blow into your IID), or for trying to tamper with the device the court will take away your restricted license privileges, but your IID company can also fine you. It just keeps coming.
  • Warranty - One I didn’t see coming. Some installers will charge you a monthly fee that theoretically protects you in case the device breaks (in a manner that doesn’t look like you were trying to bypass the device). Would it in practice? I don’t know. I’m not going to find out. But when comparing prices see if they’re going to tack it on.
  • Insurance - The same as a warranty, but can also be purchased separately. In my experience the machine shouldn’t be beaten up too much, once you find a good place for it that’s out of the way when driving, it shouldn’t take too much wear and tear, but accidents do occur, I suppose. If you get it, know what it covers, ask if there’s a deductable (that’s where they get you), and know the ins and outs. Also double check if your current car insurance policy covers it (you have the SR-22, they know you have a DUI).
  • Damage - This should be conditional with you actually damaging the damn thing, but find out what their policy is before it happens. The devices are can be damaged by heat, animals, water spills, auto accidents, know what will happen to you in case this happens.
  • Theft/Loss - Most of the units are removable. Supposedly they can be damaged by extreme heat and extreme cold, so if you are in those environments, you are encouraged to take the unit with you to protect it. Does anybody actually do this? I have no idea. However, if you take it with you and somehow lose it (I don’t know how this would happen since you can’t drive without it) or your car is stolen (and the ignition interlock device is actually a fairly decent theft deterrent system), you should know what the consequences are.
  • Replacement Forms - If you misplace the paperwork, or make a mistake filling it out, they will charge you for replacements - even if you mess up when first filling it out. Stupid, I know, unfair, I know, nothing you can do. Fill it out carefully.
  • Tax - The IID is not a taxable item. However, most people do not know this and a shady vendor could be charging you tax and pocketing it. Do not allow this to happen. Alert the authorities if this happens.
  • Credit/Debit Card Fee - The bane of my existence at my nearest lunch spots. Some places can charge you for using your credit card. Usually a dollar or two, but still, it’s important to know.
  • Personal Check Fee/Bounced Check Fee - I don’t recall any of the places I dealt with saying that they accepted personal checks, but I didn’t ask. I’ve only paid my taxes and my court fees with a check in the last number of years. I’m going to guess most likely you aren’t either - but if for some reason checks are your preferred way to pay, make sure they take them, and make sure you know if and what they charge.
  • Cash Fee - Not sure I’ve seen this for anything, but, if you like to pay cash, know the drill. Do they need exact change?
  • Removal Fee - This is one of the fees they don’t want you to know about. A lot of people complete their IID then get that extra little kick in the pants for $75-$120 when they find out that there’s a cost to remove the IID. Again - a place that boasted “No Hidden Fees” hid this fee from me until I asked. They know you’ll pay this fee because at this point you’ll be sick of the dang thing. Supposedly you can do this yourself if you’re a gearhead and return the unit. I’m certainly not skilled enough, nor would I want to risk some sort of mixup and the court seeing this as a violation, or the service center erroneously claiming that I damaged it. Let them take it off, I’ll get something to eat.

Pricing and preparing for all of this is a difficult task. Especially with all the callbacks, run around, hiding of information, it’s exhausting to deal with.
Again, this is what they want. They want to drain you dry so that you settle and just say fine. They need you, you have your pick. Ask as many questions as possible, they are leaving something out.

DUI Life: Owning a Breathalyzer

One of the biggest mistakes I made throughout this entire journey was to not really understand the effect alcohol has on my body.

I mean, I understand the general good feeling, becoming more talkative, and an elevated chance of saying yes to an outrageous dare or late night burritos…

But how many drinks is .08?

You can say “ok well, for an average man that would be…” but what is it for

If you’re drinking a one beer versus another when does that ABV (alcohol by volume) difference make a difference?

What’s your favorite bartenders pour like? If they’re your favorite, it’s probably a bit heavy. Or maybe even a
lot heavy.

So if you have three heavy pour drinks what is your BAC an hour later? Two?

You can rely on the chart… but it, too, is an estimation.

What is your BAC when you’re feeling good? What does .08 feel like?

Some say to stop when you can’t feel your face… what BAC is that?

One of the first, and smartest, things I did after my arrest was to head on Amazon and buy a breathalyzer for myself… namely the
BacTrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer. I did a little bit of research and the consensus was that it was an incredibly accurate one - which is what matters most of all.

Yes, paying $100 to monitor my alcohol after a conviction hurts a little bit, but it’s something I should have done a
decade ago.

When I first blew the cops portable breathalyzer it was the
first time I have ever blown on such a machine, and what a colossal mistake that was. Throughout college the only way I could gauge how much I drank was how bad the hangover was the next day. All my adult drinking life I determined if I could drive on how good I felt. I was sure that if I wasn’t too numb I could make it. So I drove drunk, and I had no idea I was doing it. I thought I was fine.

The cops don’t give DUIs based on feeling. They give it based on the readings of a machine. Having one of those machines of your own
just makes sense. I had thought about it a couple times over the years but shied away when I saw the price tag.

Get it. It’s well worth it. It’s much cheaper than getting it
after getting busted.

Knowledge truly is power, and now I know when I’m legal, and when I’m not (well, technically as I’m still on probation
any detectable amount of alcohol is a violation when driving - but now I know when that alcohol is showing up and when it isn’t.)

Get a breathalyzer and keep it in your glove box. Blow in it after your happy hour - you’ll be shocked at what your reading is. How many times have you drank that much and driven? Hundreds maybe?

It’s also valuable to see how specifically your body handles alcohol - do you accelerate quickly? Do you burn off alcohol quickly? Or do you burn it off slowly?
This knowledge will change your life for the better.

Go drinking and blow into your breathalyzer the first thing in the morning - you’ll be
completely blown away at your BAC reading. I’ve had some instances where I didn’t get completely sober until 3 PM the next day.

If you’re a parent this should be a gift to your children on their 21st birthday. I know that’s what mine will be getting. If there’s somebody in your life that is a heavy drinker, give them one, let them learn just how drunk they’re getting.

It seems ridiculous that mine pairs with my smartphone, but it’s been a surprisingly handy feature - it records my scores with timestamps, so I can see the rates of how my BAC rises and falls. I tend to sober up quicker than it estimates (not by that significant margin - usually an hour, hour and a half quicker after a night of drinking).

The most valuable lesson I’ve found:
How I feel has little-to-no relation with my BAC. There’s times where I’ve felt “oh man, I’m feeling good, I must be pretty drunk”, do the test and get a .04 (and retest and have my findings confirmed). Sometimes I’ll be feeling completely fine and get a .2!

Remember - this is what the cops are using against you. Know how it affects you.