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Breath tests used in drunk driving cases


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Law enforcement officers in Colorado and elsewhere go through specific training in order to perform sobriety testing on those who are accused of driving under the influence of alcohol. One test that is used in drunk driving cases is the breath test. What is this and how does it work?

If one is pulled over by police for suspected impairment, he or she will likely be asked to give a breath sample. The officer will supply a little portable machine in order for one to provide the requested sample. While it may not look like much, there is a lot going on inside that machine, and it all happens in a relatively short time frame.

Law enforcement in Colorado use the Intoxilyzer. This is a machine that detects ethanol using infrared spectroscopy. When a breath sample is given, it passes into a chamber that houses a lamp that gives off IR light. If ethanol is detected, the molecules will begin to absorb the light. This then passes through a filter wheel where it is converted into an electrical pulse and gives a number readout.

The Intoxilyzer results are thought to be extremely accurate. However, it does not mean that they are accurate 100 percent of the time. If these devices are not properly cleaned and maintained, the readouts that can give false positives for intoxication. Colorado residents who are facing drunk driving charges based on the results of the Intoxilyzer test do have every right to question the test results. An experienced defense attorney can assist them in doing so and provide further assistance in fighting the charges at hand.

Source:, “How Breathalyzers Work”, Craig Freudenrich, Accessed on July 20, 2017

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