Where do Breathalyzers come from and how do they work?

Did you know that a former police officer turned college professor invented the first breath-testing machine? Dr. Robert Borkenstein, the accepted father of the Breathalyzer, wanted to find a way for law enforcement officials to determine whether someone had enough alcohol in his or her system to be drunk without a blood sample. That was in 1954.

His non-invasive device changed the way that the law enforcement community determines intoxication. Companies have made changes to the devices over the years in an attempt to make them more accurate, but they are still plagued with the same issues. The machines capture air from the bottom of your lungs so as not to confuse the breath in your mouth, which may have alcohol in it, with the breath coming from within your body.

How does that work?

First, you should know that the most accurate way to test your blood alcohol concentration is through a blood sample, but that invasive procedure requires trained medical personnel, and the results take time. A police officer on the side of the road would probably not have the knowledge or the time to rely on this method in that moment. For this reason, breath testing machines became popular since they provide quick results and aren’t invasive.

Having said that, breath testing machines aren’t as accurate as the police officer administering the test to you wants you to believe. If an officer fails to perform the test properly, the results won’t be accurate. If officials fail to properly maintain or calibrate the machine, the results won’t be accurate. If you have certain medical conditions or are on a certain diet, the results won’t be accurate. If certain chemicals in the air interfere with obtaining a good sample, the results won’t be accurate. You get the idea.

There are numerous ways that the machine could say that you are legally drunk, which means your BAC is .08 or higher, even if you aren’t. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t rely on the results of a breath test when making a decision regarding whether to fight a DUI charge. The officer may rely on it to arrest you, but that does not equate to guilt. Before making any decisions regarding how to proceed, it would be wise to gain an understanding of your rights and legal options.