Breathalyzers: Why Aren't They Warranted to Measure Alcohol?
Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog
If you are facing drunk driving charges, you will have taken (unless you refused) a chemical test for blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In the great majority of cases, the test will be done with a breath machine. When you go to court, you will find that you have been charged with not just one, but with two crimes. The first is the so-called "per se" offense: driving while having a BAC of .08% or greater. No one cares whether you were intoxicated or not. All of the evidence could prove that without question you were sober: the crime is your chemical composition, not your condition. And what is the sole source of evidence upon which you will be either convicted or acquitted? A machine.
The second charge you are facing is "driving under the influence of alcohol" ("DUI"), or in some states, "driving while intoxicated" ("DWI") or "operating under the influence" ("OUI"). They are basically the same thing. In each case, however, the prosecution can prove you were under the influence of alcohol by offering the results of the same breath test into evidence -- and the jury will be instructed that the defendant is rebuttably presumed to be guilty unless he can prove otherwise. Thats right: a presumption of guilt. Based upon what? Again, a machine.
So it all comes down to a machine. Your innocence or guilt depends largely if not entirely upon what a machine says.
Maybe we should take a closer look at this "breath machine"....
Sometimes generically referred to as "Breathalyzers" after the original Breathalyzer 900, today there are a number of makes and models manufactured by different companies. For many years, the most popular of these has been the "Intoxilyer 5000", manufactured by CMI, Inc. How reliable is this machine at measuring alcohol in a persons blood by measuring his breath? How accurate?
Well, what do the manufacturers think? How confidant are they that these devices are reliable enough to send a man to jail?