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Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing: What It Is and the Procedures

16 February, 2024

A police officer conducting a breath test on a female driver

Evidential breath alcohol testing determines the alcohol content in the breath sample of a person. The procedure involves the user turning on the breath tester, exhaling into the device, and then waiting for the result to display. Law enforcement officers commonly use this testing during traffic stops and in other situations where alcohol impairment is suspected. It provides a quick and non-invasive way to assess the level of intoxication of a person and helps ensure road safety.

Alcohol consumption not only impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction time but also poses a significant risk to public safety. It is imperative to prevent impaired drivers from operating vehicles to reduce the likelihood of accidents. In response to this threat, law enforcement agencies and businesses have implemented alcohol testing programs. One of the primary tools in such programs is evidential breath testing. This article will present evidential breath testing, including its mechanism of action, procedures and protocols.

What is Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing?

Evidential breath alcohol testing is a standardised method that law enforcement officers use to assess the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of an individual by analysing their breath sample. This testing involves the use of breathalysers. The results obtained from such testing are crucial evidence in legal matters related to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or other alcohol-related offences.

Breathalysers have become essential tools in enforcing drink driving laws. In addition, they help ensure public safety on the roads. These breath screening devices measure the alcohol content by using a chemical reaction. This reaction occurs when ethanol in the breath sample comes into contact with the alcohol sensor. The sensor then converts the response into a reading, providing legal evidence of alcohol impairment.

Moreover, evidential breath testing devices are calibrated to meet strict standards to ensure accurate readings. Regular maintenance is necessary to maintain their thoroughness. Additionally, police officers undergo specialised training to ensure proper use of breathalyser devices and precise interpretation of test results. Evidential breath testers help save lives by enabling law enforcement to swiftly identify and apprehend individuals who choose to drive while intoxicated.

Purpose of Evidential Testing

  • Evidential testing serves to accurately measure the blood alcohol level in the sample of breath.
  • It actively assists authorities in evaluating the sobriety of the person by providing tangible evidence of their alcohol consumption.
  • The results from these tests hold significant legal weight, serving as crucial evidence in court proceedings related to alcohol-related offences.
  • These breath screening tests contribute to maintaining road safety by identifying and deterring drunk driving.
  • Evidential breath tests play a vital role in verifying compliance with alcohol-related regulations. These regulations include legal drinking age limits and restrictions on alcohol consumption in specific environments.

A police officer showing a breathalyser

How Does Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing Device Work?

An evidential breath alcohol testing device works by examining the breath samples of an individual to determine their BAC level. The analysis is done using the sensors inside them. Generally, there are two types: fuel cells and semiconductors. Semiconductor breathalysers use a tin oxide compound to measure the alcohol concentration level. This produces an electric current when it comes into contact with ethyl alcohol and produces the result.

Meanwhile, fuel cell breathalysers use platinum electrodes to oxidise the alcohol. This chemical reaction produces acetic acid, protons, and electrons. Then, electrical currents form, reflecting the amount of ethanol in the sample of breath. This is considered more accurate than semiconductor sensors because it only reacts to ethanol.

To ensure greater accuracy, it is advised to use breath alcohol tests at least 15 minutes after consuming food or beverages. This provides time to decrease the residual alcohol in the mouth and ensure the absorption of alcohol consumed. Moreover, individuals must use clean mouthpieces to prevent inaccurate results or false positives.

Accuracy and Reliability

Evidential breath testing instruments offer accurate and reliable BAC measurements. They go through rigorous testing and calibration procedures. This is to ensure proper functionality. Its accuracy is fundamental in determining levels of impairment. Moreover, it informs whether a driver is legally intoxicated or not.

However, like any other test, there is still a possibility of a false positive. Residual alcohol in the mouth may cause a false positive result. This can happen if the person has recently consumed alcohol or a mouthwash. Also, certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux or diabetes, can affect the accuracy of the testing.

Law enforcement officers conducting roadside breath tests

Procedures and Protocols for Conducting Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing

Operating an evidential breath alcohol testing device is a straightforward process. Firstly, the user must turn on the device by pressing the power button. Once the unit is on, wait for the sensors to warm up. This usually takes a few seconds to a minute.

The user needs to exhale into the breath alcohol device. Then, they should wait for the device to process the sample of breath and provide a result. This usually takes a few seconds. The breath tester will display the BAC result on the screen. If the BAC is within the legal limit, the user is safe to drive or do a specific task.

Following protocols is crucial to ensure accurate and reliable results in evidential testing. This includes verifying device calibration, properly instructing the subject, observing for any interfering substances, and documenting all relevant details. Keeping the chain of custody procedures and conducting regular equipment checks are also essential for validity in legal and regulatory contexts.

Standardised Alcohol Testing Programs

Standardised alcohol testing programs refer to established procedures and protocols used in evidentiary breath alcohol testing. These programs help ensure consistency and reliability in determining BAC levels through breath analysis. They typically involve training for law enforcement personnel, calibration of devices, and adherence to strict guidelines during testing procedures.

These programs aim to minimise errors and inaccuracies in alcohol testing, thereby enhancing the credibility of the results in legal proceedings. By following standardised protocols, authorities can maintain the integrity of the testing process and provide reliable evidence of intoxication levels. This ensures fairness and accuracy in enforcing laws related to impaired driving.

Conclusion

In conclusion, evidential breath alcohol testing is a crucial method for law enforcement to assess the alcohol levels of an individual. Using specialised breathalysers, officers can accurately measure the BAC through breath samples. These devices work by detecting ethanol in the breath, providing reliable evidence for legal matters like DUI cases. Regular maintenance and proper training ensure accurate results. By swiftly identifying intoxicated drivers, evidential breath testers help save lives and maintain road safety.

Conducting evidential breath testing follows straightforward procedures. Users activate the device, exhale into the mouthpiece, and await the BAC result. Following protocols, such as device calibration and proper documentation, is crucial for reliability. Standardised alcohol testing programs further enhance consistency and credibility in BAC determination, promoting fairness in law enforcement. Through adherence to established procedures, authorities maintain integrity and provide reliable evidence of intoxication levels for enforcing impaired driving laws.

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      A police officer conducting a breath test on a female driver

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