Breathalyzers are typically used at traffic stops when police suspect that someone has been driving under the influence of alcohol. Rarely, though, are breathalyzers used on young people who are not driving.
A 13-year-old boy, however recently discovered that police have several applications for breathalyzers, which are simple devices used to detect a person’s blood alcohol content.
According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against police in Livonia, Michigan after the police allegedly forced a teenager to take an alcohol breath test while on a school field trip.
At the time of the incident, the boy and his classmates were on a field trip celebrating their eighth grade graduation at Livonia’s Rotary Park.
The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the boy and his friends had walked into nearby woods for a brief walk when an assistant principal, who had followed them into the woods, found them and accused them of drinking alcohol.
The assistant principal based his allegation on a liquor bottle that was found near the boys, though they claimed it did not belong to them and that they had not been drinking.
When the police arrived, they forced the students to take a Breathalyzer test. To the embarrassment of school officials and the officers, each boy blew a 0.0, proving that they had not had alcohol.
The boy’s lawsuit focuses on the officers’ breach of his Fourth Amendment right to not be subjected to an unlawful search. The Fourth Amendment is designed to protect innocent people from obtrusive searches by the police.
According to the ACLU, federal and state courts have ruled police officers must have a search warrant to administer a breathalyzer test to someone who is not driving.
The lawsuit also claims that, not only did the police officers not have a warrant to lawfully administer the blood alcohol test, they also did not have any probable cause of wrongdoing that might have given them a reason to pursue a search warrant in the first place.
As the lawsuit stated, “[w]hen there is no evidence that a child has done anything wrong, he should never be subjected to this degrading and embarrassing procedure in front of his teachers and peers.”
As mentioned above, these types of situations are relatively uncommon. Breathalyzer tests are usually given to adult drivers when they are suspected of driving under the influence.
Even under these circumstances, however, breathalyzer tests are not infallible. In addition to the tests’ potential for making mistakes, police must also follow a strict set of guidelines when they give BAC tests.
If these police fail to follow proper procedures, or the results of the BAC test are unreliable, a DUI lawyer may help a person arrested for a DUI fight the charges.