An Overview On The Usage Of The Intoxilyzer In The State Of Utah

Interviewer: What’s the purpose of the breathalyzer first of all and what is it?

Matthew Nebeker: In Utah, when the officer requests a chemical test that can be a blood test, urine test or a breath test. So, when we’re talking about a breath test, they’re gathering a sample of the driver’s breath and it’s been administered and pushed into this machine that’s called the Intoxilyzer.  This machine theoretically takes that sample of air, analyzes it and spits out a number of how much alcohol is in the person’s blood. There’s a lot of science behind that if you think about that.

The Request for a Chemical Test Always has to Take Place After the Driver has been Arrested

Interviewer: When is it administered first of all?

Matthew Nebeker: The request for a chemical test always has to take place after the driver has been arrested, after they’ve gone through the standard field sobriety tests and sometimes will have even been given a portable breath test by the officer. The chemical test, based on the Intoxilyzer machine, the one that counts, the one that can be used in court against them, that’s either conducted at the police station or sometimes, it’ll be conducted at the jail or some departments actually have a machine that they can pull out of the trunk of their car, plug it into the cigarette lighter and take your sample right then and there.  But it usually almost always occurs after the arrest of the individual.

The Portable Breathalyzer and the Intoxilyzer are Two Separate Machines

Interviewer: There’s two types you’re saying, there’s the Intoxilyzer that they’re going to take someone and use it at the station, and there’s a portable breathalyzer that they’ll sometimes administer upon someone getting stopped or pulled over and after they’ve done their standardized field sobriety tests, is that correct?

Matthew Nebeker: Yes.  A lot of times, the driver gets confused between the two because they’ll do the standard field sobriety tests, the officer will then have the driver blow into the portable breathalyzer. It’s a little box, it’s maybe like 4×5 box with a tube sticking at one end, it’s just handheld and the officer will hold that up for the driver and have him blow into it.  And that machine, that little box, is not calibrated regularly; it’s not maintained in anyway.  There are no standards to ensure its accuracy.

The Intoxilyzer is Maintained and Calibrated and it’s Reading is Admissible in Court

So, the only thing the officer is supposed to do with that is, say, whether the driver is positive or negative for alcohol.  And so, then usually, after the portable breath test, the officer will arrest the driver, take them to the station or take them to the jail and have them blow into the Intoxilyzer machine and that’s the one that’s maintained and calibrated and that’s the one that can be used in court.

It is Necessary for a Motorist to Distinguish Between the Intoxilyzer and the Breathalyzer

But I’ve seen a lot of cases recently where when the driver gets down to the station or the jail and the officer says, “Well, I want you to blow into this machine”, the client says, “Well, you’ve already done it out there in the field, why should I do it again?”  And they get marked with the refusal. We’ve talked about refusals before, so whoever’s reading this or reviewing this, they’ll have to make that distinction between the portable breath tester and the Intoxilyzer machine.

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