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What’s the Next Big Thing Law Enforcement is using to find Drunk Drivers? Lasers.

Will laser technology be the next big advancement in technology used during driving under the influence investigations? Well, the question has been greatly debated since the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing article. The article titled Stand-off Detection of Alcohol in Car Cabins discussed how laser technology could be used to detect alcohol in a vehicle’s cabin. The cabin of a motor vehicle is the area where the driver and passengers sit.

In the article, researchers at the Military University of Technology’s Institute of Optoelectronics in Warsaw, Poland used this latest technology to detect the presence of alcohol vapors in vehicles. The laser device was created using what’s called a “stand-off” method used to identify harmful substances at a distance like explosives and hazardous materials. The only difference was that, in this particular study, the device was used to detect alcohol in the air, not harmful substances.

Does the Laser Technology Work?

To test the laser device, researchers filled a motor vehicle’s cabin with the amount of alcohol vapor equal to the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of 0.10 percent. The researchers then shot the device’s laser through the cabin area. It reflected of a mirror located on the cabin’s opposite side before it traveled back throughout the vehicle.

Researchers could then measure the reflected light to find out how much of the original laser beam had been absorbed by alcohol vapors. The original laser beam absorption gave the researchers the ability to determined alcohol content in the vehicle.

The laser device does not work like the handheld laser police use to detect speeding. Instead, the device sits on the side of the road and monitors traffic as it passes. If the device detects alcohol vapors in a motor vehicle, it sends an alert a police officer waiting some distance away from the device.

After receiving the information, the officer would pull over the driver and then attempt to determine whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol. The officer would do this relying on the traditional DUI testing methods. The idea seems doable because of the intense focus on preventing drunk driving. However, there are two questions that are raised:

  • How accurate is the DUI laser technology?
  • What about driver’s rights?

Potential Problems with the New Laser DUI Technology

Yes, there are potential problems with the new laser technology like the following:

  • The device cannot distinguish whether the driver or passenger emitted the alcohol vapors.
  • It cannot distinguish if the alcohol vapors are emitted from a source of alcohol like a spilled drink.
  • There are counter-measures people can do to lower blood alcohol vapors like turning on the air conditioner or lowering the windows. The device does not take those things into consideration.
  • It may be Unconstitutional to beam a laser into your vehicle. In California, an officer must have probable cause to stop a driver. In other words, an individual must be driving erratically or commit a traffic violation like speeding or having a broken taillight. After the stop, an officer must establish probable cause to make a DUI arrest after conducting a DUI investigation. This typically includes making direct observations of the driver and his or her performance on field sobriety tests.

The Constitutionality of the device may be ultimately decided by U.S. Supreme Court if the device is used in the U.S. However, it is highly unlikely that devices like this would be allowed because of the potential it has to infringe on a driver’s legal rights.

Want to learn more about fighting a DUI or driving under the influence charges? Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin. We are committed to representing drivers across Los Angeles County who are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor DUI charges.

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