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The DUI Guide: DUI Evidentiary Breath Test Devices (Drunkometer)

Posted by attorney David Jolly

Published with permission from the book, DUI/DWI: The History of Driving Under the Influence, David N. Jolly. Outskirts Press (2009) The DUI Guide: DUI Evidentiary Breath Test Devices Drunkometer Arguably the first practical analytical breath testing machine was the appropriately named "Drunk-o-meter." The device was invented by Professor Rolla N. Harger in 1938. Professor Harger was the Chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the Indiana University School of Medicine and his idea had its origins in 1931. The "Drunk-o-meter" was intended from the beginning to be used by police and was a very elementary device that required an individual to blow into a balloon that was inside the machine. The breath sample was then transferred through an acidified potassium permanganate solution. If the solution changed color there was alcohol in the breath sample. The greater the color change, the more alcohol there was present in the breath. In addition to the fact that the machine was crude, it was also cumbersome. It looked like a portable laboratory and lacked the practicality and relative reliability of later machines. Tilstone, William J., Savage, Kathleen A., and Clark Leigh A. Forensic science: an encyclopedia of history, methods, and techniques. ABC-CLIO (2006)

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