Seattle DUI - What is a Breathalyzer?

For years, the term "Breathalyzer" referred to the machine that a person under arrest for a Washington State DUI would blow into. The actual Breathalyzer -- the Smith & Wesson 900C - is pictured to the immediate right. This particular machine has not been used in Washington State DUI arrests since the 1980s. It was the first widely used breath testing technology, however, and was used throughout the United States in DUI prosecutions.

The Breathalyzer was subject to criticism in that it was possible for the breath test result to be manipulated by hand, and because of this the machine came to be nicknamed the "Dial a Drunk." In the late 1980s, Washington State decided to modernize its breath testing technology and, after a bidding process, the "DataMaster" (far right photo) manufactured by a company then known as Verax was purchased. This machine, now manufactured by the National Patents Company, is not without its flaws, but it least the result cannot be hand-manipulated as was possible with the old Breathalyzer.

Washington State's breath testing machines are now so old that it is likely that none of them are under warranty. Finding spare parts for these machines must be challenging. The DataMaster technology is no longer current. It will only be a matter of time before Washington state finds it necessary to upgrade its breath testing machines to reflect the current "state of the art" or face criticism that the DataMaster is today's Breathalyzer - outdated and in need of retirement.