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Avoiding a D.C. DUI: There’s an App for That

by | Mar 27, 2013

It was big news last year when local D.C. bars started offering to give patients a blood-alcohol content reading before they stepped out of the establishment.

Soon, our D.C. DUI attorneys understand you may be able to check your BAC wherever you go. Starting either this summer or early next year, there will be a portable “Breathometer” that is designed to attach to your iPhone and synch with an app to allow you to measure your own BAC before you get behind the wheel.

Manufacturers say the device easily hooks onto your key chain or fits in your pocket, so you can have it with you no matter where you are.

The makers are also planning future add-ons, such as options to contact a nearby taxi or other transportation service or an emergency contact.

Our D.C. DUI lawyers would caution, however, that we can’t attest to the accuracy of these devices. We can’t say, for example, that just because the device rendered your BAC as under the legal limit that it will be in any way a valid defense if you are subsequently stopped in your vehicle and determined by an officer to be under the influence.

It’s also not clear what maintenance, if any, the devices would require or for how long they might last.

In D.C., more than 400 DUI convictions in recent years were attributed to improper calibrations of breathalyzer machines, which is why the district itself stopped using them for about two years. Now, the Metro Police Department has begun using them again, unveiling the new machines just as city council passed a series of tougher DUI penalties for even first-time offenders.

So if these machines require no calibration or other maintenance, we would question their long-term accuracy. The manufacturers maintain that it is “as accurate as other consumer breathalyzers on the market.”

We’re not sure that says much.

Still, if your urge to check your BAC is enough to help you stop and think before potentially making a poor choice, it’s probably worth it just to keep in your pocket. The device will be compatible with both Android and iPhones.

Anyone arrested for a DUI in the D.C. area should not wait before contacting an experienced defense attorney. The Comprehensive Drunk Driving Act of 2012 lengthened mandatory minimum sentencing for first time offenders and for those whose blood alcohol levels at time of arrest are especially high.

First-time offenders face up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Repeat offenders or those who have a BAC of 0.20 percent or higher will face at least 10 days in jail. Drivers whose BAC is 0.30 percent or higher face a minimum of 20 days in jail.

For commercial drivers, the new minimum BAC threshold is 0.04 percent, and violators are subject to a minimum five days in jail.

The California-based manufacturer of the portable breathalyzer is hoping to raise $25,000 so it can start shipping the device out to customers by July.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.