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Pennsylvania drunk driving: How Breathalyzers detect impairment

Pennsylvania residents who police suspect of driving while impaired may be pulled over for sobriety testing or breath tests following an accident. Law enforcement officers often use the Breathalyzer on potentially inebriated drivers. How do Breathalyzers detect impairment and does a failed test mean one will be charged with drunk driving?

There are at least three different types of Breathalyzer technologies out there that can detect a person's blood-alcohol content. These are infrared spectrometers, fuel cell sensors and semiconductor oxide sensors. The fuel cell testers are most often used for roadside screenings, as the machine is small and deemed highly accurate.

All three types of Breathalyzers do the same thing, though in slightly different ways. Fuel cell and oxide sensors utilize chemicals to check for impairment. Electrical currents then send a readout to officers giving a BAC percentage. The infrared spectrometers, usually used at police stations and also deemed a highly accurate way to determine impairment level, identify alcohol molecules by looking at how they absorb light. The BAC percentage is measured based on the number of molecules seen in a sample.

Pennsylvania drivers who fail Breathalyzer tests are likely to be charged with drunk driving. This does not mean that a conviction will follow, however. Despite being touted as being highly accurate, Breathalyzer readout errors do happen. With the assistance of legal counsel, it may be possible to fight BAC results which could, in turn, result in one's case being dismissed or charges being reduced. Fighting a DUI charge is not necessarily easy, but with the right assistance all evidence offered in one's case can be questioned and picked apart in an effort to help the accused achieve the best possible outcome.

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