What Breathalyzer Do Cops Use

What Breathalyzer Do Cops Use?

Breathalyzers are critical tools used by law enforcement officers to determine if a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. These devices play a crucial role in maintaining road safety and preventing accidents caused by drunk driving. But what breathalyzer do cops use and how do they work? In this article, we will explore the different types of breathalyzers used by law enforcement agencies and delve into their functionality. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions surrounding this topic.

Types of Breathalyzers Used by Cops:

1. Fuel Cell Breathalyzers:
Fuel cell breathalyzers are the most common type used by law enforcement officers. These devices are highly accurate and reliable in measuring blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The fuel cell technology in these breathalyzers oxidizes the alcohol in a person’s breath, generating an electrical current that is proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. This current is then converted into a digital display of the BAC level.

2. Infrared Spectroscopy Breathalyzers:
Infrared spectroscopy breathalyzers are less common but still used by some law enforcement agencies. These devices work by measuring the absorption of infrared light by alcohol molecules present in a person’s breath. The amount of absorbed light is then used to calculate the BAC level. Infrared spectroscopy breathalyzers are highly accurate but are less portable and require more maintenance than fuel cell breathalyzers.

3. Semiconductor Breathalyzers:
Semiconductor breathalyzers are the least accurate type used by law enforcement officers. They operate by measuring the change in electrical resistance caused by the presence of alcohol in a person’s breath. While these devices are less expensive and more portable, they are generally not used by law enforcement agencies due to their lower accuracy.

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How Do Breathalyzers Used by Cops Work?

Regardless of the type of breathalyzer used, they all operate based on the principle of alcohol detection in a person’s breath. When alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and then expelled through the lungs when a person exhales. Breathalyzers measure the alcohol content in a person’s breath and convert it into a BAC level. The process generally involves the following steps:

1. Breath Sample Collection:
The law enforcement officer instructs the driver to provide a breath sample by blowing into the breathalyzer device. The driver is required to blow continuously for a specific duration and with the required force to ensure accurate results.

2. Alcohol Detection:
The breathalyzer device detects the alcohol molecules present in the breath sample. This detection is achieved through the chemical reactions or light absorption methods implemented by the specific type of breathalyzer being used.

3. BAC Calculation:
Based on the detected alcohol molecules, the breathalyzer calculates the BAC level using predetermined algorithms. The resulting BAC level is then displayed on the device, indicating whether the driver is under the legal limit or over the limit, thus potentially facing legal consequences.


Q: Can breathalyzers be wrong?
A: While breathalyzers are generally accurate, various factors can affect their readings. These factors include calibration issues, device malfunctions, interfering substances in the breath sample, and improper usage. It is essential to ensure breathalyzers are regularly calibrated and operated correctly by trained professionals.

Q: Can a breathalyzer be challenged in court?
A: Yes, breathalyzer results can be challenged in court. Defense attorneys can challenge the accuracy and reliability of the device, question the officer’s adherence to proper testing protocols, and raise doubts about the validity of the results.

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Q: What happens if I refuse to take a breathalyzer test?
A: Refusing to take a breathalyzer test can have legal consequences. In many jurisdictions, it can result in an immediate suspension of your driver’s license and potentially increased penalties if convicted of driving under the influence.

Q: Can mouthwash or breath mints affect breathalyzer results?
A: Certain mouthwashes and breath mints contain alcohol, which can potentially affect breathalyzer results. It is advisable to wait for a sufficient period after using such products before taking a breathalyzer test to ensure accurate readings.

In conclusion, law enforcement officers primarily use fuel cell breathalyzers, which are highly accurate and reliable in measuring blood alcohol concentration. These devices work by detecting alcohol molecules in a person’s breath and converting them into a BAC level. While breathalyzers can be challenged in court, it is crucial to abide by legal requirements and cooperate with law enforcement during roadside tests. Remember, the best way to avoid the need for a breathalyzer test is to never drink and drive.