Battle Wages Over Breathalyzer's Reliability

The Jerusalem District Court ruled about six months ago that breathalyzer tests of drivers' alcohol levels were unreliable. It therefore raised the bar for charging people with drunk driving.

The court ruled that only drivers whose alcohol level was higher than 290 micrograms per liter of air should be indicted, even though the law defines a concentration of more than 240 micrograms per liter as inebriation.

The ruling was made in response to the state's appeal of a verdict by the Jerusalem Traffic Court that had set a bar of 400 micrograms per liter as a condition for indictment. Until then, police had indicted drivers whose breath had an alcohol concentration of over 255 micrograms.

Two weeks ago, an administrative appeal to ban the breathalyzer altogether was filed in the Petah Tikva District Court. The petitioners argued that the breathalyzer was unreliable and the police have no legal basis for using it.

The petition said the breathalyzer discriminates among people with different physical attributes. Hence men and women, short and tall people, young and old people will produce different results on a breathalyzer test even if they drank identical amounts of alcohol.

It also said that due to legislative changes, there is no explicit definition of the amount of alcohol that constitutes intoxication.