How Long Do Breathalyzers Detect Alcohol?


If you are out celebrating with a couple of your friends and you’ve had a few drinks, do you know how much alcohol is in your system? Before you get behind the wheel of your automobile, it’s important to make sure that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is not too high.

How Fast Does Alcohol Metabolize?

If you are a 6 foot three man who weighs 250 pounds, it’s going to take more alcohol to raise your blood alcohol content than a woman who weighs just 120 pounds. Race, age, height and weight will determine a person’s blood alcohol content. In addition, the type of alcohol, the number of drinks and the amount of food you have consumed will also become a factor that must be considered.

Measuring Blood Alcohol Content With A Breathalyzer

A breathalyzer device is used to measure the amount of blood alcohol content that you have in your breath when you exhale. Law enforcement officials use this method to check your BAC since it’s one of the fastest. If your BAC registers at a higher than allowed level, you may be taken to police headquarters so that blood or urine samples can be taken.

Handheld Breathalyzers have two different types of technology — semiconductor oxide sensors and an electrochemical fuel-cell. A larger breathalyzer unit that is found in the police station will have infrared spectrophotometer technology.

Metabolized Alcohol Rates

When you consume alcohol, it is either digested or metabolized via urine, sweat or your breath. If you have not eaten before you consume alcohol, more of it will enter your bloodstream. On average, a man will absorb 20 percent straight into the bloodstream. It’s estimated that on average, alcohol will be metabolized and digested at a rate of 0.015 BAC every hour in a man. With those statistics in mind, it would take two hours for alcohol to leave your body if you began with a BAC reading of 0.030.

It should be noted that some breathalyzers are not as accurate as others and will give wrong readings. This is due to having a bloody mouth, acid reflux or fluctuations in body temperature. In addition, ketones, which are a natural compound in the body, can throw off BAC readings.

The Most Reliable Test

It’s illegal to drive while you are impaired. Each state has a BAC reading that is fairly low. If you are pulled over by a police officer and you have a BAC that is over the legal limit, you will be taken into the police station, booked and given a blood test so that a more accurate reading can be determined.

By knowing your estimated BAC before you drive an automobile, you can wait until the alcohol leaves your body so that you won’t end up in jail.