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A Brief History Of The Breathalyzer

| Sep 23, 2020 | OWI |

Breath-alcohol testing devices, commonly called breathalyzers, are used by patrolling police officers across the country. You can find one in nearly any squad car. And although the results they produce need to be checked against more reliable test methods upon arrest of a suspect, their invention was considered a breakthrough in enforcement of DUI/OWI laws.

If you’ve ever encountered one of these devices, you may be surprised to learn that they were invented right here in Indiana. Blood and urine tests for alcohol already existed, but the breathalyzer was invented and developed by a biochemist at Indiana University in 1931. He received a patent in 1936 for the device, which he called the “Drunkometer.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout Indiana were among the first adopters of the technology, using the drunkometer starting in 1939. But the original tests were not as portable as they are today.

According to a news report, the whole kit was about half the size of a suitcase. Suspects would blow into a balloon. The air would then exit the balloon into a test tube filled with a chemical solution that changed color in response to a person’s blood-alcohol concentration. It was deemed highly accurate and adopted over time by police departments around the country.

These days, breathalyzers are much smaller and produce digital readouts of results. While they can be highly accurate, they regularly need to be serviced and calibrated in order to ensure and maintain accuracy. Individuals charged with drunk driving can often subpoena maintenance and calibration records to determine if the device may have given a faulty result that led to arrest.

If you’ve been accused of drunk driving, please don’t passively accept the results of your tests or the charges that come with them. Instead, work with an experienced OWI defense attorney who can help you protect your rights and freedom.