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The Intoxilyzer: Demonstration with Richard Aitken & Richard Robertson

I’m Richard Aitken, I’m one of the lawyers at Aitken Robertson, we’re a criminal law firm that does DUI law in Oshawa and indeed throughout most of southern Ontario. I’m here with Richard Robertson, Richard is our student at law soon to become a lawyer and he’ll be helping us explain how the instrument works and in fact Richard will also do a test. So how does it work?

The Intoxilyzer brand of breath testing apparatus is a series of breath testing machines, currently in Canada we’re using the 8000C model, but we do see the 5000 available in some jurisdictions and we anticipate the 9000 to become available in the future, is a machine that gauges the blood alcohol content of one’s breath using infrared spectrometry. How this works is that a sample is submitted into the device and then the elements of that sample, and what I mean by the elements, the actual atoms of that sample are analyzed using infrared spectrometry, and what I mean by that is that infrared light is passed through the sample in order to determine the amount of ethanol which is contained within that sample. Ethanol reacts differently to the infrared light compared to the other molecules, principally oxygen, in your breath, therefore as your sample passes through this machine, and it engages with the infrared light which is being transmitted through your sample, what ends up happening is that the ethanol gets trapped while the oxygen isn’t able to pass through. As a result of that, we know how much standard oxygen there should be in a sample, and therefore the amount of ethanol that is absorbed and it gives us a reading of how much ethanol, or alcohol, was actively in your breath sample at that time and we’re able to gauge the overall breath alcohol content or BAC. And that’s what we’re testing with this machine, this is different from other machines which use a fuel cell to test. This is considered, the infrared spectrometry, to be the most thorough form of breath testing available and this is why we see these machines being deployed and used in our police stations throughout the country.

Alright Richard I understand you had a beer?

I did I consumed a beer about 15 to 20 minutes ago.

Alright so I assume it’s a standard beer so likely 5% alcohol by volume and roughly 12 ounces.

I would say that that was correct.

Alright so let’s start the sample, there’ll be a start button on the front there if you press that.

I’m going to engage the machine. And it’s coming off of standby mode and in about 55 seconds it will be able to take a sample.

Alright we know from the hum that the instrument is ready to accept a sample, so in terms of the instructions, Richard if you were at a police department the officer would be telling you to do a long continuous blow and have all the deep lung air emptied from your system.

Yes that is the goal of taking the test is that the sample you’re providing into the instrumentation is a sample which contains deep lung air, you want to get the most genuine test results possible for your BAC and you don’t want the test to be implicated by residual mouth alcohol or any leftover breath shall we say in the oral cavity. So when providing a sample the test taker is encouraged to provide a deep lung air and what the Intoxilyzer machine is designed to do is that when you’re providing a sufficient sample of air into the machine, the machine will give you a tone, so what we’re going to look for here as I provide the sample, is a consistent tone which indicates that sufficient deep lung air is being provided into the machine. So without further adieu, I will provide a sample into our Intoxilyzer.

Alright you’ll see there, Richard did a long continuous breath, deep lung air, if this was actually at a police station the officer would be saying, blow harder blow harder blow harder, the machine wants at least five seconds of air, the police typically want at least ten and keep in mind the deeper the lung air the higher the result, so the police typically want the higher results, they want to be able to make out their charge. It looks like the instrument is now analyzing the sample, my guess is it’s probably going to show Richard at maybe 20 or 25 mg is my guess, based on your weight Richard.

I’m pretty light these days about 161 pounds, I’m actually going to say that I’m probably going to be a bit higher, closer to the 40 mg mark.

The result is what?

I was at the 20 mg mark, Mr. Aitken’s learned experience takes the day.

Alright and I’ll explain that. If you’re perhaps my size, or for the first few hours, in other words every beer you have, 12 ounce 5%, is going to put 35 into your system. Typically you burn off about half of that an hour, so 35 minus 17 for example, leaves you with 18, every hour you’re gaining 18. So if you have one can of beer, every hour, you weigh 150 pounds, you’re gaining 18. At four hours you’re at 72, you’re awfully close to 80. If you go to five hours, you’re now over 80, so people need to know that the urban myth or the rule of thumb that you can only have one beer an hour and be safe, that works only for the first few hours, and does not work very well for women because typically a higher fat content given the curves women have and lighter weight generally speaking, perhaps if a woman has anymore than one drink, if she were to weigh 100 110 pounds, even that would be putting her awfully close to the 50 to 80 range where it might present a problem of license suspension. So what I’m saying is that when people golf, or play hockey, instead of having a beer an hour they should maybe have light beers or perhaps have a beer the first hour and a diet coke the second hour and do it that way, and very much avoid the last drink. If so many of my clients avoid the last drink, they wouldn’t be showing up at my office at 100 mg, they’d be at 65 or 70, or 75 and not charged. That’s how the science really works.

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