in most countries, the police have the right to require the driver to take a breath test if they have stopped the vehicle legally.">

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History of Breath Tests

Posted on:1/5/2012
For the first half of the twentieth century, the primary basis for convicting operators of driving while impaired was through the testimony of the arresting officers regarding their appearance and behavior.


However, since World War II, a movement had grown to define the offense in terms of blood alcohol concentration.

 

In most countries, the police have the right to require the driver to take a breath test if they have stopped the vehicle legally. In the USA, however, the Fourth Amendment requires that “searches be reasonable”. Therefore, an officer can require a driver to provide a breath sample for a BAC test only if he/she has probable cause to make an arrest.

 

The US Supreme Court in the Smerber vs. California case determined that a chemical test involved the collection of physical evidence and, therefore, could be forced on the driver if there is probable cause. However, most police departments did not want to get involved in restricting offenders and forcibly taking blood samples. Therefore, “implied consent” legislation was passed by the states under which drivers implicitly agreed to submit to a measure of their blood alcohol when they accept a license to drive. This allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend that driver's permit if he/she refuses to take the test.

 

The significance of the evidentiary breath testers was further enhanced when 40 states adopted the administrative license revocation (ALR) laws. The ALR laws provide that, if a breath test is taken and found to be higher than the state BAC limit, the offender will also have his/her license administratively suspended.


  
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