Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing
Dept. of Transportation (DOT) alcohol testing and police DUI enforcement might be the first examples that come to mind when we talk about evidential breath alcohol testing. But there is even more alcohol testing taking place outside the realm of DOT and DUI enforcement, and a significant amount of it is evidential as well.
When a customer asks “Will my breath alcohol test result hold up in court?” that’s a pretty good clue that they are doing – or want to do – evidential breath alcohol testing. Courts of law are not the only arena where alcohol test results might be disputed. In general, any time an agency or company needs to be able to successfully defend an action based upon an alcohol test they are doing evidential testing.
There are three essential elements to conducting an evidential breath alcohol testing program. Following each of these elements will give the highest probability of successfully defending an alcohol test result.
1. Use an evidential quality instrument. Any instrument that appears on the NHTSA Conforming Products List of Evidential Breath Measurement Devices is, by definition, an evidential instrument. Don’t be confused by the Conforming Products List of Alcohol Screening Devices. Devices on that list are not evidential devices.
NHTSA evaluates devices to determine if they meet the criteria for accuracy and specificity for evidential devices. Only devices that successfully pass NHTSA testing appear on the list.
2. Document that the instrument is maintained in accurate condition. At a minimum this means performing periodic Accuracy Checks and Calibration Adjustments as specified in your policy, and documenting them. A Calibration Log in which every Accuracy Check and Calibration adjustment has been correctly recorded will provide satisfactory documentation.
The calibration standards used to perform the Accuracy Checks and Calibration Adjustments should be of evidential quality as well. The NHTSA Conforming Products List of Calibrating Units for Breath Alcohol Testers (link) lists Dry Gas and Simulators that have been approved by NHTSA.
3. Document that operators have been trained to use the device. If an alcohol test result is disputed the inevitable question is “Was the operator ever trained to use this device?” To successfully defend the test the answer should be “Yes, and here is the operator’s certificate documenting the training.”
The type of training required depends on the nature of the alcohol testing being performed. For example, testing conducted under DOT regulations requires operators to be certified as Breath Alcohol Technicians in a course that follows a model curriculum defined by NHTSA. Companies and agencies performing non-regulated evidential testing have the flexibility to design and conduct training that meets their specific requirements and policies. There is no standard pre-defined training curriculum for non-regulated testing.