Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Breath Test Videos

Saw these great breath test videos on YouTube. I mentioned them on my other blog recently, but thought they deserved their own post. For those who believe in the Breathalyzer, these videos will give you something to think about.

The first video demonstrates the problem of mouth alcohol. I've seen this myself at a seminar. The individual swigs something with alcohol in his mouth (like Scope, or in this case I think it's Vodka) and spits it out. A few minutes later he blows into the machine and registers an outrageously high number.

The second video starts off similar -- an initial 0.00 BAC. Then the guy chews on Wonder Bread for 5 minutes, and he blows a 0.025 BAC. In other words, no alcohol at all and he's halfway to what some cops would ticket (improperly) for DWAI. I can only guess that the sugars and/or starches mix with the yeast and ferment quickly.

The moral of this story: Breath tests are unreliable. I've seen too many cases where the BAC doesn't fit the rest of the story.

We have a case going right now where our client blew a 0.17. That's close to falling-down drunk. The cop car had video, and the guy looks totally sober. Not to mention that he was going more than 30mph over the limit and handled the car well. He passed the One-Leg Stand and Walk-and-Turn tests.


Feisty said...


I agree that breath tests are unreliable, but I would prefer to see videos that attack the administration of the breath test.

These two videos completely ignore the "20 minute" rule, and would not be admissible in court.

If you can find videos that show inaccurate tests administered as required by law, I'm definitely interested. But these videos are a side show. They may help to convince a small subset of the public of the inaccuracy of these machines, but they do nothing to help attorneys or defendants facing a possibly unreliable breath test result.

I'd rather see an inaccurate result after the test was administered as required by law.

Anonymous said...

As a lay person I agree with the prior commenter. I've been doing some reading on BAC measurements. Your two examples immediately stand out as not valid testing scenarios that wouldn't be applicable in court.

First the 20 min watch before testing eliminates an alcohol swoosh as influencing.

Second .025 on bread makes sense (having read the Yeast Connection book). So how long does the effect last? More than 20 mins? Also, it's not remotely close to a DWI charge. A quarter million dollars is not a million dollars. Unless you can show that more bread would create higher BAC levels, this too is eliminated.

Your last example is of an apparent mismatch. Anecdotal evidence does sometimes points to something. However, it's not a criticism of the way the machine works. It's just a claim that a misworking SHOULD be findable. What goes wrong, or evidence of inconsistency in scientific field testing is needed, rather than anecdotal.

So please pull out and post some more directly applicable & effective ways they mis-operate. I'd be very curious. I don't need a video to go with it to be convincing.


Unknown said...

These points might make sense if police followed the 20-minute rule, which means not only waiting 20 minutes but also watching the defendant during those 20 minutes.

In my experience most police do not follow proper procedures. I've had booking room videos where the police leave the room. I've had cases where the officer counted the time driving from the scene to the station in the 20 minutes.

And judges rarely throw out a breath test because of such failures. But I've only done about 100 such hearings, so what do I know?

Unknown said...

It's probably not clear from my last comment, but videos of the breath testing procedure are rare in NY. The state police almost never have video. Some of the cities and towns have them, but not many.