The web has been buzzing with articles regarding the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation regarding lowering the standard blood alcohol level for per se DWI charges. However, some of the NTSB’s recommendations have received less attention from the media.
As the Huffington Post reports, the NTSB also recommended the increased usage of passive alcohol devices by law enforcement officers. This recommendation certainly warrants further discussion.
Passive alcohol devices are devices used to detect alcohol that are somewhat concealed, and are used as an extension of a police officer’s smelling ability. The devices can be contained in an officer’s flashlight, or can be worn on the officer’s person in the shape of a cell-phone. If the law enforcement officer directs the device towards a vehicle’s operator, it can alert the officer that the driver is intoxicated.
West Virginia’s WBOY.Com notes in a recent article that the primary purposes for law enforcement officers in using passive alcohol devices are to detect low levels of alcohol on underage drinkers and to establish probable cause to further test a suspected drunk driver’s sobriety. That same article discussed how one county in West Virginia had begun to utilize a passive alcohol device called the “Buzzkill Flashlight.” The proliferation of law enforcement officers’ use of the Buzzkill Flashlight in Monongalia county is to detect alcohol upon first approach of a vehicle, and to sense alcohol levels as low as .01 or .02%.
In the case of New York, at least one high school is using passive alcohol devices to monitor students at school events. According to the Shen High School website, chaperones and school administrators will utilize passive alcohol devices during school events to determine whether students have consumed alcohol. The site explains the detailed science of such devices: platinum electromechanical fuel cells are used to detect the alcohol vapors, which takes about fifteen seconds. The devices exclusively detect alcohol and no other drugs.
The question remains, however, whether passive alcohol devices are really that effective. A 2007 report from the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine indicates that in at least one study passive alcohol devices did not significantly increase arrest rates. The study was conducted in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, where 24 officers were given the devices and divided into two squads (one with the devices and one without). The officers then conducted 500 traffic stops and then switched roles, with the other squad using them. Ultimately, the study concluded that there were no significant differences between the officers with the devices and without, and that the devices are likely best used at DWI checkpoints.
Passive alcohol devices may be used to detect low levels of alcohol, especially on drivers under the legal drinking age. It is important to know your rights if you are charged with violating DWI laws, and should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney. Call the experienced attorneys at Nave DWI Defense Attorneys today at (877) 435-7394 for a confidential consultation.
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