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Home > Blog > OUI/DUI/DWI > There Are Many Kinds of “Breathalyzers,” and That’s a Problem
Dec 20, 2017

There Are Many Kinds of “Breathalyzers,” and That’s a Problem

The world of operating under the influence (OUI) is full of surprises. People who have been arrested and charged with OUI in Maine are surprised and often confused to find out that there are two different processes that happen at the same time – a criminal one and an administrative one. The per se nature of the legal alcohol limit may also be a surprise for people who handle their alcohol well because it can mean they’re driving “under the influence” even though they feel perfectly sober.

Another surprising fact in OUI law is that “Breathalyzer” is actually a brand name for a certain handheld chemical breath testing machine, much like a Kleenex is a brand name for a kind of facial tissue or a Frisbee is a brand name for a type of flying disc.

Technically, There’s No Such Thing as a Breathalyzer

There are actually dozens of different “breathalyzers” in use, today.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency in charge of conducting studies and passing regulations meant to keep our roads safe, is responsible for making sure that the handheld chemical testing kits that police use to detect drunk driving are adequately reliable. The rules for the NHTSA’s process are outlined at 73 Fed. Reg. 16956.

It is then up to businesses to try making a portable chemical breath testing machine that conforms to the NHTSA’s requirements. Corporations from across America and even outside of the country – some from Sweden, England, and Japan – have developed breath testing machines that conform to the NHTSA’s rules. As of November 2, 2017, the list of approved machines has gotten quite long.

Complications for OUI Enforcement and Defense

With lots of competition among breath test manufacturers, police departments across the country in need of breath testing machines should be able to get the best deal through a bidding process, ensuring both quality and value.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things always happen.

The companies that manufacture and sell breath testing machines know that competition would be fierce in the bidding process and that they would get far less lucrative deals if they had to match competitors’ prices and make a good deal to win the bid. Therefore, they do anything they can to get around the bid process and sell their products to police departments, directly, or find a loophole and sell to the state.

As a result, there are numerous different brands of portable breath testing kits out there, each with its own drawbacks and potential problems. Tracking down which machine you used when you were arrested can be an uphill struggle, but knowing which one it was can be a key piece of information in defending your OUI charge. Thankfully in Maine, handheld breath testing devices are rarely used and if they are, the results cannot be admitted at trial against you.

Maine OUI-Defense Attorneys

OUI charges in Maine are not light. They come with serious penalties. Defending against them is how OUI-defense attorney William T. Bly and his team earn a living. Contact the law office online or call him at (207) 571-8146 for the legal help you need.

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