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Press Release

Breathalyzers in Colorado

A brief overview of how breathalyzers work and the role they play in DUI arrests.
May 11, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Everyone has heard about them. Whether one has seen them on television or in driver's education classes, every driver is aware that police officers use an Intoxilyzer or other breath test device as a tool to determine if a driver is operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Yet, many drivers have questions about these devices.
Are we required to submit to a Breathalyzer test? How do these devices work? How many kinds are there? Are they accurate?
People may ponder these questions at one time or another, but they rarely stop to think about the answers. Generally, people start considering the answers when they wonder if that extra beer at the game or last cocktail with the girls was a bad idea; this often coincides with noticing red and blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror.
Breath Tests and the Law
Many people may first consider whether they have to cooperate with a request to provide a breath sample. Under Colorado's implied consent laws, an individual that holds a drivers' licenses has given consent to submit to a chemical test used to aid enforcement officers in determining impairment.
A driver can refuse to submit to a breath test, but not without repercussions. The refusal can be admitted in a court proceeding and also used as a basis for the revocation of a driver's license.
Having a basic knowledge of how these devices work can help when in this situation, or if you were recently pulled over and are trying to decipher the language of a driving under the influence (DUI) ticket.
Different Types of Breath Tests and What Colorado Uses
The first thing to know is that there are three major types of breath tests used throughout the country: Breathalyzer, Intoxilyzer, and Alcosensor III or IV. Although there are some key differences, there are also many similarities. For one, all three types of breath tests devices use a mouth piece that collects a sample of air from the person suspected of drunk driving. This sample is then used to make a blood alcohol content, or BAC, reading.
Alcohol can be detected within the blood because unlike milk, juice, soda or other things we drink it does not digest in the blood but remains separate. Alcohol stays in the blood stream and travels throughout the body until expelled in the lungs through evaporation. And, since alcohol is expelled through the lungs, breath can be collected to determine a person's BAC.
The Breathalyzer device is a system that uses a chemical reaction to produce a change in color when exposed to alcohol. The Alcosensor III or IV uses a more advanced fuel cell to detect a chemical reaction in the presence of alcohol. Colorado does not use either of these systems, but instead uses the Intoxilyzer.
The Intoxilyzer uses infrared spectrometry to detect alcohol and measure BAC. This process identifies molecules of alcohol based on how they react to certain types of light. The Intoxilyzer is made up of four basic parts:
-Broadband light beam
-Filter wheel
-Electrical pulse microprocessor
The lamp begins the process by creating a multi-wavelength infrared light. The light then forms a beam and passes through the sample chamber. At this point, the light is focused with a lens onto the spinning filter wheel. The filter wheel contains a very narrow band of filters that specifically target ethanol. If ethanol passes through this filter, it is converted into an electrical pulse that is relayed to the microprocessor.
Once the microprocessor receives the electrical pulse it will translate the pulse to calculate a BAC reading based on the absorption of light. This information can then be used when an enforcement officer is attempting to determine whether the alleged drunk driver is driving under the influence of alcohol.
How Breath Tests Factor Into an Arrest
A breath test is used to establish the driver's BAC level. In Colorado, operating a vehicle with a BAC level over .08 is against the law.
Although Intoxilyzers are scientifically accurate they are not always exact. Many factors can result in an incorrect reading, ranging from a poor calibration before use to incorrect administration of the test. Some independent studies compared the more accurate blood test to the breath test and noted a breath reading can be off by as much as 15 percent. Even with this information, Intoxilyzers continue to be considered acceptably accurate by the majority of courts as a tool for gathering BAC evidence.
It is important to note that Intoxilyzer tests can be successfully challenged in court. As a result, if you or a loved one is charged with a DUI, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced DUI defense lawyer to ensure all your legal rights are protected.
Article provided by The Adams Law Firm LLC
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