What You Need to Know About Breathalyzers and DWI Breath Testing
Kansas City, Missouri DWI Breath Testing
How Did the Breathalyzer Get Its Start?
The breath machine used most often is the “Datamaster” which was created by the National Patent Analytic Systems located in Mansfield, Ohio. A first-generation breath testing machine, it still operates with the same technology originally created back in the 1970s. This machine is much less dependable than the modern machines of today, so it doesn’t make sense for police departments to still choose to incorporate the breathalyzer test as their primary alcohol testing machine. Using this old Datamaster is similar to using a manual typewriter for business meeting notes instead of getting out a tablet or laptop. Despite this, the breathalyzer remains one of the oldest tools of technology remaining in use today. Use of these machines date back to the 1980s, without them seeing any updates or advances. Despite this, almost 40 years later they are still considered as a source of factual evidence when presented to court. Breathalyzer tests do have many issues, and we are ready to point those out and fight for you in a court of law.
How Do Breathalyzers Work?
All across the country there are two leading kinds of machinery in use as far as a breath testing machine goes. These two different kinds include infrared spectrometry as well as fuel cell technology. More often than not, fuel cell breath testers are located in the portable field handheld devices, which are called portable breath testers (PBTs). These testers are more commonly known for unreliability. Even any Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level that has been detected using a PBT cannot be admitted as evidence. They usually can be used as evidence for criminal cases. Infrared spectrometry devices are built with greater focus and higher clarification, which makes them easier to use and more applicable to your DWI case.
The tabletop version of the Datamaster breath test featuring infrared spectrometry has a mouth tube. Other features include a sample chamber. It has an infrared light source along with filters and is equipped with a detector. After you blow air into the machine’s mouth tube, your breath sample is sent through a long sample chamber of cylindrical shape. Filters are located in this chamber to establish differences between various substances, such as ethyl alcohol. After this occurs, your BAC is switched over to an output. During this same time, breath particles are sent down the sample chamber. An infrared light shines through while filters work on determining the specific light wavelengths. At that point, your BAC is displayed and is the difference in both the quantity of the infrared light shot into the breathing tube as well as the amount of that same light in the sample chamber. This breath testing does still have limitations.
Limitations for Breath Machine Testing
There are limitations and errors by any technology used for measuring something, including breath testing machines used by law enforcement.
How Does Alcohol Appear in a Breath Testing Machine?
A breath testing machine might not be able to acknowledge between similar substances and alcohol, which is something you need to know. So, it could be wrong because of its inability to recognize the difference between alcohol and other substances.
There is an infrared fingerprint for any substance, including but not limited to ethyl alcohol. Those fingerprints enable them to be seen on multiple frequencies involving the infrared spectrum. If you know the precise fingerprint for ethyl alcohol, you have the ability to identify its presence by how much of it gets absorbed by the machine’s infrared light.
We all know that different people have different fingerprints. Individual fingerprints are so unique, it requires a trained expert to tell the differences between the fingerprints of people by viewing the points of the fingerprint and determining the similar points. It can take dozens of points on a fingerprint for a positive identification. Determining a human fingerprint’s origin can be compared with an alcohol infrared fingerprint. An alcohol infrared fingerprint has absorption of infrared light at six different microns. That means these six points must be matched to ensure a substance is alcohol. A breath testing machine only checks two of those points.
Are There Other Substances That Can Absorb at Those Two Frequencies?
Several other substances have the same absorption abilities for infrared light at those two specific frequencies. Interestingly, some are natural body substances while some are found in paints and paint thinners. Some diseases, such as diabetes, create substances that might impact alcohol detection in a breath test. About any substance functioning on these two same wavelengths can impact the machine’s ability to sense alcohol and impact your BAC results.
Why Aren’t Other Wavelengths Checked by Breathalyzers?
Only two of the six wavelengths are checked because the additional capabilities would make the machines way too expensive. The government goal doesn’t focus on checking wavelengths but to convict people even if those charges aren’t accurately proven.
To learn more about breath testing and fighting DWI charges in Kansas City, contact Hollingshead & Dudley. As your experienced Missouri DWI attorneys, we can build a strong case and fight for you!