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Definition - What does Breathalyzer mean?
Although the name Breathalyzer was first a trademarked name for a device constructed by Professor Robert F. Borkenstein in 1954, the name is now used as a generic term to describe any breath analysis device used by police officers to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath.
How does the breathalyzer work?
There are two types of breathalyzer machines. The most common type is called a preliminary breath tester (PBT). These hand-held devices are based on electrochemical platinum fuel cell analysis, and they are frequently used at DUI traffic stops when officers are attempting to gather sufficient evidence to make a DUI arrest. The information gathered from the preliminary breathing testers can produce evidence that a driver is intoxicated, but the evidence is generally not admissible in court.
The second type of breathalyzer is the desktop analyzer, which produces more accurate breath readings based on a spectrophotometer or electrochemical fuel cell technology.
This machine is generally used after a driver is arrested for DUI, and the police officer performs a chemical test. State laws determine what type of chemical test may be performed (or the officer may get to choose). If the officer decides to test the driver’s breath a second time they will use a desktop breathalyzer.
Evidence gathered from the desktop analyzer produces information which can be used as evidence in a DUI trial.
Do I have to submit to a breathalyzer test?
Drivers stopped for DUI have the legal right to refuse field sobriety testing, including a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. Refusing a test, however, offers no guarantee a driver will not be arrested for DUI. In fact, if the police offer believes they have probable cause for a DUI arrest they will simply arrest the driver following the test refusal.
Most states have passed implied consent laws. Under these laws drivers, who are arrested for DUI, have given their implied consent to submit to a chemical testing following a DUI arrest. If a driver is arrested for DUI the state will perform a chemical test of their blood, urine, or breath (the specific method of testing is determined by state laws).
Drivers who refuse to submit to the breathalyzer test following their DUI arrest are likely to receive an automatic license suspension. The suspension is an administrative suspension, the length of which is determined by state law. The suspension is also enforced even if the driver is not convicted of DUI.