A wrist-mounted BAC monitor that can either work independently or interface with an Apple Watch is taking the wearable tech world up a notch.
The gadget does more than produce a BAC readout that’s almost law enforcement accurate. It predicts future BAC levels, giving users insight into how quickly, or how slowly, their bodies metabolize alcohol. Other features include an alarm, a graphical representation of prior alcohol blood levels, and a very good iPhone sync. The creators of BACtrack are hopeful that it will give better data to alcohol researchers, who have had to rely largely on self-reported alcohol consumption statistics.
The app costs $99.
How Police Officer BAC Monitors Work
The BACtrack uses a tiny ethanol sensor to calculate BAC level. Such sensors are very small and quite affordable. However, they’re only accurate in low-volume environments, making them ideal for things like wearable tech but not so much for law enforcement.
Most police officers, especially when they are out in the field, use hand-held fuel cell testing Breathalyzers. The cell oxidizes the breath alcohol to produce an electrical current. The stronger the current, the higher the BAC level, at least in theory.
Texas police stations have infrared spectroscopy Intoxilyzers. These gadgets are probably the most accurate ones. They’re also by far the largest and most expensive ones, which is why police officers don’t have them out in the field.
A nerdy phrase like “fuel cell tester” sounds very complex and cutting edge, especially when police Breathalyzer techs use lots of three-syllable words to explain the process to a jury. But the 1950s “drunk-o-meter” used essentially the same technology. Radios from that era sounded terrible, televisions from this era had poor picture quality, and scientific instruments from this era simply weren’t very reliable.
The ethanol sensor may eventually be a game-changer, because it’s probably only a matter of time before someone figures out how to make it accurate in high-volume testing devices. But for now, the Intoxilyzer is about the only alternative for use in court. Blood tests are available, and officers do use them in some situations. Blood tests are time-consuming that usually require search warrants, nurses, and a detailed chain of custody.
Challenging the Breathalyzer
The BACtrack gives DWI defense attorneys in Houston something they’ve never had before, which is a way to directly challenge the Intoxilyzer results. Police DWI Intoxilyzers dispose of the samples immediately after testing. Therefore arrested drivers have no opportunity to have an independent lab measure the alcohol level in their breath.
Even if the defendant was not wearing a BACtrack, it’s still possible to challenge the Intoxillyzer results. For example, infrared spectroscopy can measure acetone particles, which are common in diabetics and smokers, as ethanol.
Contact a Savvy Houston Attorney
Intoxilyzer test results are usually, but not always, accurate. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston, contact the Law Office of Jim Medley. We routinely handle cases in Harris County and nearby jurisdictions.