DUI or driving under the influence is a criminal offense in the United States. When a suspect driver is stopped by a police officer the police officer may undertake three field sobriety tests to determine if there is a suspicion that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. The limit for blood alcohol in the US is 0.08%. Therefore a reading of this amount or greater can lead to the driver being charged with DUI. Estimates are that around 38% of all deaths on the road in the US involve alcohol intoxication.
If that suspicion exists the officer may test the blood alcohol content via a breath test, also known as a breathalyzer.
A breathalyzers is a screening device used to determine the blood alcohol content of a subject using their breath. These devices do not directly measure the blood alcohol content, rather they estimate the content by analyzing the alcohol content of the breath. Police officers are instructed to keep a driver under supervision for 15 minutes before giving a breath test.
In the past the limit in the US was 0.10% but most states have standardized it to 0.08%. In fact the American Medical Association state that 0.05% is the level at which people can become impaired when drinking alcohol. Many European levels are currently lower than the US level.
Given the facts are breathalyzers accurate or can the give false results or be manipulated during the test? Well, the short answer is that they are accurate and reliable and are not open to be manipulated.
Eating food prior to the breath test or sucking on breath mints or even using mouthwash can hide the smell of alcohol, but they do not remove the alcohol content from the breath. Many types of mouthwash in fact have alcohol in them and may add to the alcohol content! Caffeinated drinks may help to wake you up or keep you alert, but again do not remove the alcohol. Common myths that pennies or batteries may lower the alcohol content have also been proven wrong.
Alcohol can be tested in the breath because it is absorbed into the blood via the stomach and intestines and also the mouth and esophagus. Alcohol is passed from the blood into the lungs and into the air while breathing. The alcohol that is breathed out is in direct proportion to the alcohol in the blood. This makes the breathalyzer test a satisfactory substitute to testing blood alcohol content in the field. A reading of 0.08% or more gives an officer due reason to arrest the driver.
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