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Breathalyzer & BAC Protocol

Interviewer: Wow. You mentioned a little something earlier that we can touch on here because you said that you have your field sobriety tests, and then you’ve got your Breathalyzer. Is that going to be administered during this process outside in the weather, or are they going to arrest someone first and then detain them and then give them the Breathalyzer?

Adam Hunt: They’ll administer a portable Breathalyzer usually in the field. Most departments carry them. Again, however, they’re not as accurate as the actual machines that would be back at a station, so they could be giving that Breathalyzer in the field and then giving a second one when they get back to the station.

Interviewer: Okay. How does a Breathalyzer work, first of all?

Adam Hunt: Basically it measures the amount of alcohol contained in the lungs. Anything that comes into your body is expelled one way or the other. Obviously, they can test blood, they can test urine, but it’s measuring the amount of alcohol in the lungs. It’s coming out as you’re expelling carbon dioxide.

Interviewer: Okay. Now let’s go over like just some of the basics on this. What is the legal limit that someone has to blow? Is it a .08?

Adam Hunt: Yes. In Ohio, it’s a .08.

Interviewer: Okay. What does that translate to when it comes to someone drinking? How many drinks does that mean? How many beers is that?

Adam Hunt: It depends on body weight and the rate of consumption, how much alcohol they’ve had in the last hour, and it could be one of those things where even if they didn’t drink for the last hour, if you consume a lot of alcohol it’s going to stay in your system until it dissipates. So even if you didn’t drink for two hours, if you had a lot of drinks earlier your blood alcohol would have been really high at one point in time. It may be trending its way down, but it still might be sufficient to get you over that .08 number.

Interviewer: This is going to go back to what you were talking about. Let’s say there’s an individual like that case that you brought up. What if someone blows something that’s under .08? Could a police officer still arrest the person, and if so, why?

Adam Hunt: They can, and one of the reasons they would is because they’re going to give them the test back at the station with the other machine, which is more accurate. The problem with the portable is because it is portable, it’s not necessarily as sensitive or as accurate, so they could be interpreting that the other parts of the test weren’t done that well even though they’re under on breaths and then want to take them back to the station to go ahead and breathe.

Also, they have to observe them for a certain period of time and make sure they didn’t have anything in their mouth. They could also be thinking that maybe the person consumed quite a bit of alcohol recently and it hasn’t metabolized sufficiently in order for it to register on the portable.

Interviewer: My question is, why don’t they just arrest the person and give them the second one that’s more accurate and have them do that in the first place?

Adam Hunt: They can, but it’s one of those things. Even if the person hasn’t done that well on the other tests, it’s basically that they don’t want to waste their time. Do you know what I mean? There might be somebody out there that is actually drunk. If they take the field Breathalyzer and there’s no indication of alcohol, then it’s going to be explainable. This person has something else wrong with them or it’s a bad knee or whatever that explains why they couldn’t do the one-leg-stand or whatever.

By: Adam Hunt

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