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PSP's Suspension of Breathalyzers Won't Come to Upper Dublin

UD Police operate a brand new 'Datamaster' to analyze those suspected of a DUI.

Though state troopers will not use a breathalyzer test on those suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), the police in Upper Dublin will.

The Pennsylvania State Police's decision to suspend the use of breathalyzers (as reported by Patch on Jan. 30), will not change how Upper Dublin does its business.

According to an article in the Ambler Gazette, because the decision to suspend PSP's use was made by a judge in Dauphin County, those in Montgomery County do not per se need to follow the same guidelines.

"The state police decision has no impact on Montgomery County’s Fastrack centers, which are run by the county’s sheriff’s department, First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said last week," said the Gazette.

According to PennLive.com, the judge's statement recommended blood tests instead of the use of a breathalyzer machine.

"Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. concluded that breathalyzer machines used by law enforcement to gauge the intoxication level of drivers cannot be considered accurate beyond a blood-alcohol reading of 0.15 percent," said the article.

Upper Dublin had just purchased a new machine for conducting breathalyzer tests in the township. It replaced one that was previously broken.

"We got a brand new instrument in Upper Dublin," a Datamaster, Deputy Chief Lee Benson said to the Gazette.

The machine is calibrated in Upper Dublin every 60 days with a liquid solution purchased from a lab that has been certified two times, he told the Gazette. The department then runs the liquid through its Datamaster, which simulates someone having a 0.15 percent BAC, said Benson.

According to EzineArticles.com, the machine is designed to compare the concentration of alcohol in a known solution to that of the individual breathing into it.

"The DataMaster conducts infrared spectroscopy on a sample of air you breathe into a hose. It works kind of like this: You blow air into a hose and it is sent down into the box," said the site. "A source at one end of the box shoots a beam of infrared light through your breath sample. At the other end of the box is a detector that receives the light and transforms it into an electrical current whose strength is related to the intensity of the beam received."

Since the light cannot work alone, the solution is necessary to compare it (a known percent) to the breath.

"This intensity alone could tell you if alcohol was present, but for a precise reading, more is needed," said the Ezine article. "The DataMaster, like any other machine, must have data already present to compare it to. To create this data, an alcohol solution is created and vaporized, with a supposedly known alcohol concentration. This sample is then fed into the machine to create a baseline for the DataMaster to use."

The legal limit is 0.08 BAC, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles.

"It should come up 0.15, and then you know it’s accurate," Benson said of Upper Dublin's Datamaster. "If not, the machine won’t operate until it’s redone. It has its own built-in fail safe. They’re really very accurate."

PSP will now take any suspected of driving under the influence into the lab for a blood test.

"Anytime we arrest someone for DUI now instead of taking them to get a breath sample, we’re now taking a blood sample and taking that off to the lab to be analyzed," PSP Spokesman Adam Reed said. He said the test makes roads safer as they test for both drugs and alcohol in the system (where a breathalyzer does not detect drug-use).

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