WAC 448-15-010

Approval of devices.

The following preliminary breath test (PBT) instruments are approved for use in the state of Washington as breath alcohol screening devices, subject to the requirements outlined in the following sections:
Alcosensor III (Intoximeters, St. Louis, MO).
Alcosensor FST (Intoximeters, St. Louis, MO).
Any other instruments approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be considered for approval in Washington state on application to the state toxicologist, providing that a suitable program for maintenance, certification and operator training is also established and approved.


WAC 448-15-020

Use of test results.

The devices described in WAC 448-15-010 are approved for use in establishing probable cause that a subject has consumed alcohol. For purposes of this section, valid results are considered those obtained from following the approved protocol, by a trained operator using an approved device which has been certified according to the rules described in WAC 448-15-030. Valid results will show to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, the test subject's breath alcohol concentration. Valid results are suitable to assist in establishing probable cause to place a person under arrest for alcohol related offenses. These results may not be used on their own for determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person's breath alcohol concentration exceeds a proscribed level such as anticipated under the 'per se' statutes for intoxication.
This preliminary breath test is voluntary, and participation in it does not constitute compliance with the implied consent statute (RCW 46.20.308).


WAC 448-15-030

Test protocol.

The operator must perform the test according to the policies and procedures approved by the state toxicologist. The operator will perform the following test protocol:
(1) The operator shall advise the subject that this is a voluntary test, and that it is not an alternative to any evidential breath alcohol test.
(2) The operator shall determine by observation or inquiry, that the subject has not consumed any alcohol in the fifteen minutes prior to administering the test. If the subject has consumed alcohol during that period, the officer should not administer the screening test for probable cause purposes until fifteen minutes have passed. If the subject responds that they have not consumed any alcohol in the last fifteen minutes, the officer may offer the subject the opportunity to provide a breath sample into the PBT.
(3) Ensure a blank test result is obtained.
(4) Have the subject exhale into the mouthpiece with a full and continuous exhalation.
(5) Observe the results.


WAC 448-15-010

Approval of devices.

The following preliminary breath test (PBT) instruments are approved for use in the state of Washington as breath alcohol screening devices, subject to the requirements outlined in the following sections:
Alcosensor III (Intoximeters, St. Louis, MO).
Alcosensor FST (Intoximeters, St. Louis, MO).
Any other instruments approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be considered for approval in Washington state on application to the state toxicologist, providing that a suitable program for maintenance, certification and operator training is also established and approved.


WAC 448-15-050

PBT operators.

Persons certified as evidential breath test instrument operators as described in chapter 448-16 WAC shall be trained and authorized to perform the tests described herein on the PBT, for the purposes outlined in this section.


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The majority of the preliminary breath test machines (handheld units) utilize an electrochemical fuel cell technology that fits in the smaller and more compact handheld units. The disadvantage of these units is that they are less reliable and accurate than the larger table top versions that use IR technology. Despite issues over reliability and accuracy these hand held screening devices are popular for use as a screening tool to detect the presence of alcohol.

There are a number of different PBT models in use for DUI purposes. The more popular models include the Intoxilyzer S-D2 and Intoxilyzer S-D5 (both manufactured by CMI Inc.), and the AlcoSensor III and AlcoSensor IV PBT Device (both manufactured by Intoximeters Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri).  The arguments against the fuel cell technology are many. The first is that this technology is not specific to ethanol only and as a result a PBT reading can provide innaccurate results. One study found that an “Alcolmeter Pocket Model” reacted positively to ethanol but it also reacted to acetaldehyde, methanol, isopropanol, and n-propranolol. Jones, Alan W. and Goldberg, L. Evaluation of Breath Alcohol Instruments I: In Vitro Experiments with Alcolmeter Pocket Model. 12 Forensic Science International 1 (1978)

Other issues with fuel cell technology and their accuracy and reliablity is that the devices are susceptible to weather extremes. NHTSA issued the following warning regarding the AlcoSensor IV without a heated cell: If the ambient air is cold enough, and if the hand held breath tester is unheated, it is possible for the moisture in the breath to condense onto the airway surface of the tester, and cause alcohol present to condense with it. It has been pointed out to NHTSA that if this condensation occurs, it is possible for alcohol in one test to carry over to a second test, which would cause a false positive result. U.S. Dept. of Transp. NHTSA. Special Testing for Possible Carry Over Effects Using the Intoximeters Inc. Alco Sensor IV at 10 Degrees Centigrade. DOT HS 809 424 (March 2002)

In the United States, NHTSA maintains a “Conforming Products List” of breath alcohol devices approved for preliminary screening use. Highway Safety Programs; Conforming Products List of Screening Devices to Measure Alcohol in Bodily Fluids. DOT, NHTSA. Federal Register, Volume 72, No. 20 (January, 2007) Similarly, in Canada, a preliminary non-evidentiary screening device can be approved by Parliament as an approved screening device.

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WASHINGTON ADMINISTRATIVE CODE (WAC)

A preliminary breath test (PBT) is used to help the officer determine the level of alcohol in a person's system immediately after driving. The device is a small handheld unit that is easily accessible to teh officer and quickly utilized. The results obtained can be used in court to assist in determining probable cause for an arrest. However, the results are not admissible in court for a trial (Jury or Bench) to prove the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol.


If requested to provide a sample of breath into a PBT during a DUI detention, politely refuse. The test is completely voluntary and will not be of any advantage to the driver. Be aware that should you refuse the test you will probably be arrested. So only provide a sample of your breath if you had very little alcohol to drink (for example, one drink). Otherwise, politely refuse.

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