People in Massachusetts and across the country could one day be using their smartphones to tell them when they are too drunk to drive. A system is under development that involves a smartphone app paired with a wearable device that detects blood alcohol content through perspiration.

The device looks like a temporary tattoo, according to the director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which is funding its development. Engineers at the University of California, San Diego created the biosensor patch, which releases a chemical that stimulates perspiration under the skin, and then measures the alcohol content in the perspiration. The plan is for wearers of the device to pair it with a Bluetooth smartphone so that the phone can send an alert message if their alcohol level is unsafe for driving.

In addition to cutting down on drunk driving, the inventors of the system hope that it might encourage people to keep their alcohol consumption at safe levels for their health overall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, about 88,000 people in the United States die from alcohol-related causes each year, with nearly 10,000 drunk driving-related deaths occurring, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Massachusetts, driving while drunk falls under the category of operating under the influence. Regardless of what the offense is called, the penalties resulting from a conviction can be severe. They can include incarceration, heavy fines and probation, and a conviction can also have an impact on a person’s future job prospects. As a result, people who are facing such charges may want to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that a strategy to combat the allegations can be constructed.