Portable Alcohol Monitor FAQ

The "Soberlink" device I mention in the video is no longer available. We now recommend the Smart Start "SMART Mobile" portable alcohol monitor. However, the principles I discuss are still the same.

Q: What is a portable alcohol monitor?

A: It monitors alcohol in your system. You blow into it three or four times a day during specific time windows. Typically 5am-7am, Noon-2pm, 4pm-6pm, and 10pm-Midnight. The device sends the reports to the company you rented it from, which then sends the reports to Travis county. These units are designed to prove you are not drinking alcohol at all.

Q: 5:00am?!?!?!

A: The window is from 5am-7am. So you can blow at 6:50am. But, yes, you will need to wake up before 7am. If you are using the device voluntarily, we can usually change the morning window to 7-9am.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Approximately $150/month. Here is a coupon for free "enrollment" from Smart Start.

Q: When is it required by the court?

A: The Travis county court system sometimes requires an alcohol monitor for probation, bond conditions, pre-trial diversion, or as a condition of the plea bargain. Sometimes I have my clients use the device voluntarily during plea negotiations.

Q: It won’t be a problem for me to stop drinking.

A: Good. The main issue with the alcohol monitor is that it is difficult to not miss any windows, especially the morning window (5am-7am). People sleep through their alarms, or forget to bring it with them on a day trip, etc.

Q: I have a strange work schedule. Can we move the windows around?

A: In very special circumstances(or if it is voluntary) the court will agree to adjust the windows to accommodate work schedules.

Q: What happens if I miss a test?

A: The court system assumes that you did it on purpose in order to allow time for alcohol to get out of your system.

Q: I would never do that.

A: Unfortunately, lots of people would do that. It is hard for the court to figure out who is being honest.

Q: So, I can never miss a test?

A: Right. The goal is to have flawless reports.

Q: What if I’m late?

A: Blow as soon as possible. But the court will be suspicious. It is not good to be late on your blows. The later you are on the blow, the more it looks like you were drinking.

Q: Can I drink one glass of wine? On my birthday? My wedding day?

A: No. No alcohol at all.

Q: What if I drink one drink right after a window, then wait until the end of the next window. Will it detect the alcohol?

A: Yes.

Q: Can’t I just tell the court it was mouthwash? Or Kombucha?

A: You can. But they won’t believe you. You should get non-alcoholic mouthwash. And don’t drink Kombucha.

Q: What happens if the device detects alcohol?

A: The court will know that you are drinking. The consequences will depend on why you are using the device (probation, bond condition, voluntary, etc.)

Q: Is it ok to send you an email explaining why I missed the test? Or blew “hot” (alcohol in system)?

A: You are welcome to email me with the explanation, but there isn’t much I can do to prevent the consequences.

Q: I am using the device voluntarily. What are the consequences for blowing hot or missing a test?

A: Missing a test or blowing “hot” makes it almost impossible to get any credit for using the device. Even if you were 99% successful, the prosecutor will not be satisfied.

Q: How long will the court require the device?

A: The minimum period is 2 months. It could be up to one year.

Q: That sounds like a long time. And difficult.

A: Without a doubt, using a personal alcohol monitor is incredibly difficult. However there are lots of benefits to not drinking. Use this as an opportunity to improve other parts of your life, i.e. health, relationships, work.

Q: I’m sad because I won’t be able to enjoy the social aspect of going out.

A: You can still go out! Try non-alcoholic beers. They are way better than you expect. Or ask for a “mocktail.” Both are a completely acceptable (and enjoyable!) substitute for drinking alcohol. You will have just as much fun without any of the negative consequences.