Q:How does a breathalyzer work?

A:Simply put, a breathalyzer—the portable device used by police in DUI arrests—measures the amount of alcohol on a suspect's breath and uses this to extrapolate his blood-alcohol (BAC) level. After being instructed on the proper technique by the arresting officer, the suspect breathes into the device, and his estimated BAC appears on an electronic display. A reading of 0.08 percent or more is enough for the officer to formally arrest the suspect and take him to police headquarters; there, he is given a more accurate blood-alcohol test. If this device confirms the breathalyzer reading, the driver is formally charged with DUI.

What many people don't know is that the word “breathalyzer” covers a wide array of breath-alcohol-measuring devices, including the Intoxilyzer 5000 used by Virginia police and the capital-B Breathalyzer that's a trademarked product of, originally, Smith & Wesson. Although all breathalyzers operate on essentially the same principle, there are subtle differences in how each device is used and calibrated, and negligence on the part of the arresting officer can lead to a DUI charge being dismissed. Questions? Call the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC for a free consultation!