Folks who have read my post “Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol” seem quite surprised to find out these DUI machines are not as reliable as MADD and law enforcement agencies would have us believe.
In fact, the manufacturers of these things refuse to even warrant them to do what they’re supposed to: accurately measure blood-alcohol levels (see “Breathalyzers: Why Aren’t They Warranted to Measure Alcohol?”).
So how reliable are these “breathalyzers” that determine a person’s guilt or innocence in DUI cases? And just what DO they measure if not alcohol?
Well, thousands of different chemical compounds, according to scientists — anything that contains the methyl group in its molecular structure. Gasoline for one.
Consider an article appearing on the front page of the Spokane Spokesman-Review (August 24, 1988), in which a person sitting in jail awaiting trial for DUI claimed that he had nothing to drink. He said he had run out of gas and had been siphoning gasoline from a container into his tank before being stopped by the officer and arrested. In siphoning, he had sucked on the hose to get it started and accidentally swallowed a small amount of the gasoline. He claimed that this must have caused the later high breathalyzer reading. The individual finally talked the sheriff into a demonstration to prove his story.
Taken from his cell after one week of incarceration, he swallowed a cup of unleaded gasoline and then blew into the breath machine (an Intoximeter 3000). The results? After 5 minutes, the reading was .00%…..after 10 minutes, .04%……after 20 minutes, the Intoximeter registered .31%…..and after one hour, the reading was .28%. Even after three hours, the person still blew a .24% on the machine — three times the legal limit! (A quick call from the sheriff to a local gasoline distributor confirmed that gasoline contains no alcohol.)
This was not a freak occurrence. The results have been scientifically verified in a study conducted by CMI, Inc., the manufacturer of a competing breath machine, the Intoxilyzer 5000, and reported in 8(3) Drinking/Driving Law Letter 6. CMI technicians mixed a simulator solution of 800 micrograms of gasoline with 500 milliliters of distilled water, then introduced it into their own machine. The solution produced readings of .619%, .631% and .635% — or about eight times the legal limit for “alcohol” levels.
You don’t have to drink gasoline to get a reading on the breathalyzer. Breathing the fumes will do it. Like the next time you’re filling up at a gas pump…