The Evolution of DUI Breath Test Machines

DUI Breath test machines have been used since the early 1940s, although the first ones were crude, highly inaccurate pieces of equipment. They were also subject to extreme operator error, if not operated correctly. Robert Borkenstein of Indiana patented the best of the early DUI breath test machines in the early 1950s. The device was called “The Breathalyzer®”, and was still in use in some states up until the late 1990s.

Today, if you submit to a DUI breath test in the United States, you will almost certainly be tested on one of these “infrared” machines (or “instruments”, as police officers are trained to refer to them):

Intoxilyzer® 5000 or 1400 [portable unit for Batmobile use] series (America’s most widely used breath test machine)

BAC Datamaster® (America’s second most common DUI breath machine)

Intoximeter® EC-IR (Used in a handful of states)

Draeger® 7410 (German manufacturer that has placed its machine in about 6 states)

Each of these breath test devices has its strengths and weaknesses, and can be attacked in court by a knowledgeable criminal defense TRIAL attorney specially trained in fighting drunk driving cases. All of them utilize infrared light that passes through a sample chamber (where the breath is passing through) and/or electrically charged “plates” (fuel cell devices) which attract and “count” ions of alcohol as their “measuring” tool. Like any “machine”, all breath test machines are subject to variance, from systematic error, random causes, or mere sampling variability common to all breath testing devices.

All Dui Breath Test Results Can Be Successfully Challenged!

Regardless of whether the breath test result claimed by the state is close to the state’s legal limit (e.g., a 0.083 result in a state having a legal limit of 0.080) or double the maximum limit for you state, a deeply-trained DUI trial attorney may be able to find a viable explanation for why the breath machine’s results cannot be trusted.

Breath Test Machines Can Give False Readings

In the late 1990s, the State of Alabama’s own “state lab” conducted experiments on the Intoxilyzer® 5000 devices then in use across that state. Their findings, basically showing that substantial error (plus or minus 25%) in the “readings” could falsely accuse a driver who had an elevated breath temperature, led to Alabama abandoning the Intoxilyzer® 5000, and installing the new German machine by Draeger® which measures the breath temperature and adjusts the reading downward when the body temperature is higher than normal. Other states have also dropped the Intoxilyzer® (or Breathalyzer®) in favor of the Draeger® machine, or the EC-IR®.

Breath Tests Machines May Become Obsolete

States continue to use DUIN breath testing because it’s easy, inexpensive and FAST. This gets police officers back out on the highways to look for more “drunk drivers”. Finding the best DUI attorney who is trained to attack the breath machine’s limitations and weaknesses is the first priority if you decide to fight your DUI/DWI case in court. Helping you find the right DUI lawyer with these skills was the primary reason for starting Every lawyer asked to join this premier DUI attorney directory has been screened for tenacious trial skills and a reputation as a “courtroom fighter” for decades.