DWI Breathalyzer Tests in Kansas City, Missouri
The most common misconception with DWI cases is that the breathalyzer is the “be all, end all” in a trial. In fact, it’s natural to assume that breath tests are so significant, and that a case cannot be won if it involves a breathalyzer. But this misconception stems from a failure to realize that machines are not perfect. Even breathalyzer results can be attacked by an experienced DWI attorney. But it is still important to understand more about breath machines and how they can impact your case.
Where did the Breath Machine Comes From?
The most widely used breath machine was developed by the National Patent Analytic Systems of Mansfield, Ohio and is named “Datamaster.” This first generation machine still uses the exact same technology that was created in the 1970’s, which is obviously far less reliable than today’s machines. In fact, there’s no sense why police departments still use the breathalyzer. It’s the same as using a typewriter to take notes in your business meeting instead of one of a computer. Though when we look at the breathalyzer, it’s one of the oldest pieces of technology still used. Not only have these machines been used since the 1980s, they also haven’t had any updates and are still used as factual evidence in the court of law. There are many issues that can arise from the reliability of these breathalyzer tests, and you can continue reading to be informed.
How Do Breathalyzer Machines Function?
Throughout the US, there are two main forms of machinery used in regards to breath testing machines. Included are the infrared spectrometry and fuel cell technology. Typically, the fuel cell breath testing machines are going to be found in field handheld devices, also named PBTs or portable breath testers. They are usually the ones well known for being unreliable, and even the BAC detected by a PBT is not allowed to be used as evidence in the court. Most of time, they can’t even be allowed as evidence in criminal cases. Because of this, the infrared spectrometry devices have more focus and clarification, so they are easier to be used as a factor in your case.
The tabletop Datamaster infrared spectrometry breath test is built with a mouth tube, a sample chamber, an infrared light source, filters, and a detector. After you blow into the mouth tube, your breath sample will pass through a long and cylindrical sample chamber. There are filters here to be used to differentiate between different substances like ethyl alcohol. Once this happens, your BAC is converted as an output. At the same time that particles in your breath are pushed through the sample chamber, there is an infrared light that is shot through, and filters detect the certain wavelengths of the light. Then the BAC is shown as the overall difference in both the quantity of the infrared light that was shot into the tube and the quantity of the same light from the sample chamber. Though there are still limitations in this way of breath testing.
Breath Machine Testing Limitations
Any piece of technology that is used to measure something, will typically have errors and limitations. This includes breath testing machines.
What does Alcohol Look Like to A Breath Testing Machine?
One thing that you may not know is that a breath machine may not be able to tell the difference between alcohol and similar sorts of substances.
Any type of substance has an infrared fingerprint, including ethyl alcohol, which means that they are seen on different frequencies of the infrared spectrum. So if one knows the exact fingerprint of ethyl alcohol, then you can easily identify the presence of the substance, based on how much it is absorbed in infrared light.
It’s common knowledge that people have different fingerprints, so unique that it takes trained professionals to be able to identify the differences between people’s fingerprints by viewing many different points on the fingerprint and figuring out the probable amount of similar points. In fact, it could take dozens of points on the print to figure out the conclusion. Now compare this knowledge with that of an alcohol infrared fingerprint, which has an absorption of infrared light at 3.00, 3.39, 7.25, 9.18, 9.50, and 11.50 microns, entirely. That means that there are six different points on spectrum that need to be matched up to be sure that the substance is alcohol. However, that’s only two of the total points that are checked with a breath testing machines.
Do Other Substances Absorb At The Same Two Frequencies?
There are quite a few other substances that absorb infrared light at the exact same two frequencies. Some of these are actually natural substances in the body, while others are found in paint thinner and paints. There are other substances that are created by diseases like diabetes. Some substances can impact the detection of alcohol by the breath test. Practically any substance that operates on these same two wavelengths has the potential of impacted the ability of the machine to sense alcohol on your breath. This means that they will affect the ultimate BAC reading.
Why Don’t Breathalyzer Machines Check The Other Wavelengths?
The main reason that only two of these six wavelengths are tested is because breath testing machines would be too expensive otherwise. The goal of the government isn’t to test these wavelengths, it’s too obtain a conviction, even if it isn’t proven.
How Is Your Breath Sample Converted To Blood Alcohol Content?
One of the most common questions about the breath testing machines is how the machine is able to take a sample of breath and determine a number for your BAC or blood alcohol content. Once you blow into the machine, the detectors show the amount of breath particles that resemble alcohol. Whatever this number is, is then multiplied by 2,100. The result is then known as the blood alcohol content, also named as the partition ration. This conversion is derived from the scientific principal known as Henry’s Law, which states that “the concentration of volatile substances like ethanol in the air of a fluid is proportional to the concentration of the volatile substance in that fluid, at a given temperature.” However, many of the assumptions made by Henry’s Law can be challenged.
One of the most common assumptions stated by Henry’s Law is that air temperature remains constant, meaning that the Datamaster machine is designed to say that the air temperature is 34 degrees C. There are studies, however, that your breath temperature is actually over 35 degrees C, with the chance of sometime being more. While one degree more doesn’t sound like it would make a difference, the actual reality is that this one degree could exaggerate your BAC by around 7%. This means that a BAC recorded of .085, is more likely to be .079. If that person’s breath temperature is 36 degrees (which is said to be the current average), the exaggeration could end up being more than 14% different. Of course, this has a great significance on your DWI case. In order to account for all of these assumptions, studies have stated that breath samples should actually be multiplied by a number in the range of 1,100 and 3,000, which is substantially different than what has been regularly considered. Here is an example to help you better understand how important this is.
EXAMPLE: You were just asked to do the Datamaster breath machine test and you have a BAC reading of .120. Here are the partition rations and potentially true BAC outcomes.
Partition Ratio True BAC
This means that your BAC can be anywhere between .063 and .172.
The Rising Level Of Alcohol In Your System
In the event that your BAC is more than .08 while driving, you can get your license suspended, found guilty of a DWI, and end up facing other criminal penalties. As you consume alcohol and your body absorbs it through your stomach and intestine, your BAC rises. On average, your BAC can rise about .020 for every alcoholic beverage; however, it does take roughly 50 minutes before your body reaches a rise in BAC, since it takes some time for your body to absorb the alcohol in your bloodstream. As soon as the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream, it then takes your liver and kidneys time to process and eliminate the alcohol, which will drop your BAC by about .015 in an hour. This is commonly known as the blood alcohol curve, since there is a rise and fall in your BAC that looks like a bell curve on a graph.
In order to be guilty of drunk driving, you have to have a BAC that is greater than .08 at the time you are driving. Now keep in mind that there is usually a certain amount of time, sometimes more than an hour, between being pulled over and being required to take the breath test. This means that your BAC during the test is being recorded, not your BAC while actually driving. Essentially, your BAC could have been considerably lower while you’re were driving. Here is an example to help you understand further.
EXAMPLE: Picture this scenario: You have consumed 10 shots of alcohol, back to back, before getting into your car. Since you took these shots quickly, one after another, they haven’t actually entered your bloodstream yet and your BAC is still at 0.00 when you begin to drive. Only five minutes later, you end up being pulled over. At this point your BAC is still tremendously low compared to the amount you have drank. What’s important to know however, is that once you arrive at the police station, you are given the breath test, and now all of the alcohol has had the opportunity to enter your bloodstream. Now your BAC is at .25. Though since your BAC was at 0.00 while you were driving, you cannot actually be found guilty of a DWI. This example is extremely exaggerated, but it shows one of the many flaws that the breath test presents.