Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Russian DUI Camera

Imagine going to dinner with a girl that you had just started dating. You have a soda and she had a glass of wine with dinner. In her nervousness, she accidentally spills part of it on her blouse. After dinner, you are taking her to her house. It's 1 am, dark and the road is empty. You are violating no laws. All of the sudden, a patrol car comes out of nowhere with its lights flashing and you are summoned to pull over. Then, you are pulled out of the car and requested to perform roadside agility tests that most people can not do if completely sober. All of this is front of the new girl you are trying to impress. This can't happen in America where the 4th amendmant protects me from unreasonable seizures. Think again.

There is a new device that the manufacturer claims can detect alcohol vapors in moving cars. the Russian firm Laser Systems claim their Alcolaser, using spectroscopy, has a range of 65 feet and can be used on vehicle traveling up to 75 mph. The device is available as a hand held gun the size of a radar gun or as a fixed mounted unit in a patrol car.

Taking about a half second to scan a car, the manufacturer claims the device can detect quantities as small as a quart of beer or 3.5 ounces of vodka without interference from other sources of ethanol. When a person has consumed alcohol, he will exhale alcohol vapors when he breathes. Using spectroscopy, the device looks at how light is specifically scattered after hitting a specific type of molecule. The problem lies with the device not being able to distinguish whether the vapors are coming from the passenger, beer spilled in the floor, or the driver.

In my opinion, using this device to justify stopping vehicles for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) would be a violation of the 4th amendment, I can also see where the political pressures to stop drunk drivers could give leeway for some courts to say this is ok. Remember, you could be stopped just because your son/daughter did the right thing and called you for a ride when they had too much to drink.

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