Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Breathalyzer (Explained)

Most Minnesota drivers are familiar with what a Breathalyzer is and what it is alleged to do.  (In Minnesota, the Intoxilyzer 5000 is the device of choice in most jurisdictions; however, that will soon be changing as it is phased out and new Datamaster machines are employed. 

At their most basic, these devices are used by law enforcement to determine if someone is Driving Drunk - to see if a driver's alcohol concentration is (.08) or greater. 

What Does (.08) or Greater Mean For You?

If you learn one thing today, I hope it is this - a breath test result of (.08) or greater does not necessarily mean that someone is too drunk to drive. Rather, all lawmakers have done is mandate that that level of alcohol concentration in someones system - (.08) or greater - is by itself enough to determine that someone is too drunk to drive. Ass such, nothing much else about one's ability to drive really matters. The result is the result - as far as the cop, prosecutors and all to often judges and juries are concerned. Therefore, instead of being able to make a case that a driver's perceptions, conduct, balance and/or judgement are not effected by the amount of alcohol in his or her system, the work of an experienced Minnesota DWI Attorney  is often centered around taking on a machine printout that by itself is presumed to prove someone is too drunk to drive a vehicle properly.

The Problems with Breath Testing

A breath tests top task is to test the level of ethyl alcohol in your blood. (One's breath is tested, instead of blood, because it is cheaper and less intrusive.)  This is done by determining the relationship between the alcohol content in one's breath and then extrapolating that number out to determine the alcohol content in one's blood. This can be done because one way alcohol is expelled from the body is through he deep tissues of the lungs which is then breathed out of the body.

However, because it is not blood - there can be problems.  Not the least of which is that the temperatures in the lungs changes throughout the process, IMHO limiting the true true relationship, or correlation, between the alcohol in your breath and in your blood - often leading to grossly inflated overestimations.  Another problem is that humans have been found to have ethanol alcohol in their systems - even without having having had consumed alcohol.  There are also extensive issues surrounding how one's breath is tested - and what the machine does and does not "read". 

At the end of the day, I feel comfortable asserting that breath test machines, like the Datamaster and the Intoxlyzer 5000, aren't 100% accurate. Therefore, the results they produce - the almighty number that will label you a Drunk Driver - is likely inaccurate. 

What Should You Do?

In addition to digesting the information collected here about the "hows" and the"whats" of Minnesota's DWI laws -  if you or someone you love has been arrested for DWI - your next best step is to contact an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney to learn your rights and to have him fight for you in court.  

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