Breathalyzers Flounder in Accuracy Tests

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Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by DALA Staff Writer

The fundamental technology behind the nation’s alcohol measurement campaign is the Breathalyzer device, a technology backed test. A procedure involving the sampling of the breath of a potential drunk driver, the sample is measured by established scientific means to establish the quantity of alcohol present. A standardized, regulated equation converts the sampled breath alcohol level to determine Blood Alcohol Content, B.A.C, a gauge for driving impairment.

The entire procedure appears very clinical and scientific on the surface, but the process isn’t truthfully as fair and unbiased as it appears. Counter to popular beliefs, the process isn’t objective, isn’t scientific, and isn’t unbiased. Results vary widely from one person to the next. Basing a case solely on the results of this device is neither fair nor just, given that people actually unimpaired can end up being charged as a drunk driver, while a person decidedly impaired escapes apprehension and charging.

As a reliable means of measuring blood alcohol level, a blood test is reliable and accurate. In fact, blood alcohol content is universally endorsed as a precise indicator of an alcohol violation. Set apart the generally accepted premise that alcohol tolerance varies from person to person, the effects varying dependent on individual metabolism, let’s exclude that component and spotlight solely on the competency of the Breathalyzer to accurately measure Blood Alcohol Content by precisely analyzing Breath Alcohol Content.

Incontrovertible studies, peer reviewed for objective content (LaBianca, Simpson, Thompson etc) prove a latitude of 50% when correlating a Breathalyzer measured estimate of Blood Alcohol Content to an actual Blood Alcohol Content measurement. It doesn’t take a maths prodigy to see a disparity here. A Breathalyzer reading of .1% represents a Blood Alcohol Content measurement somewhere within .05% and .15%, barely a level of accuracy on which to support a premise of irrefutable guilt!

Addressing the Inconsistencies

When faced with this confirmed inaccuracy, a flaw in depicting Breathalyzers as an accurate representation of Blood Alcohol Content, several state legislatures, in a desire for expediency, have made the conscious decision to grant Breath Alcohol Content results the same weighty standing as Blood Alcohol Content results. Using this erroneous equating of two very different results is more than irresponsible, it’s a criminal error in establishing irrefutable guilt through intoxication, a failure to implement a system that fairly proves impairment and drunk driving. Breath alcohol content is a legitimate gauge of one thing only, the alcohol level in a sample of air being measured. It is certainly not a precise indicator of Blood Alcohol Content, and not an accurate gauge of alcohol impairment.

Breathalyzer recorded measurements should never be regarded solely as evidence for Driving While Intoxicated (alcohol impairment) unless the measurement is high enough to exceed the implicit 50% margin of error. That means a Breathalyzer sample must outstrip .2% in a state mandated with a .1% DWI point of threshold to be given per se status (undeniable assumption of guilt).

Breathalyzer measurements of above .1% and below .2% should be bestowed prima facie status (rebuttable presumption of guilt). Breathalyzer measurements below .1% should be bestowed no credibility beyond contributing probable cause for a DWI arrest. In no case should Breath Alcohol Content alone be thought as an accurate gauge of Blood Alcohol Content or the severity of impairment.

A devotion to eliminating the loss of life, the injuries and damage to property connected to drunk driving doesn’t pardon the courts or legislatures from their moral obligation, their duty to provide just and fair laws that are impartially administered. If standardized measurements, quantities and limits are to be included in these laws they must be relevant to the matter at hand, clearly defined, and precisely measured. If there is room for significant error there should be commiserate opportunity for the accused individual to address and appeal against the errors in their defense. The “haste” to arrest and prosecute drunk drivers has sadly encroached on these principles.

DALA Staff Writer
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