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Is that a flashlight or a dangerous DUI enforcement tool?

It sounds like there is a new tool that’s working to get more people arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. The device isn’t in wide use. It’s being used in a college area in Pennsylvania, but a Maryland-based research company is contributing to the development of the law enforcement tool.

Imagine that you are driving home from a party and you get pulled over. A police officer walks up to the side of your car, using a flashlight to light the way. You roll down your window, confident that nothing will go wrong. You only had one drink. That flashlight, however, could wind up making you feel like a criminal.

Sources report that the device in development and being tested right now looks like a normal officer flashlight. But it is more; it has some sort of detector on it that will signal when someone supposedly has consumed alcohol. The flashlight needs to be only 10 inches away from a driver in order to indicate to an officer that the driver consumed a certain amount of alcohol.

Even though sources insist that the new device’s reading wouldn’t be relied upon as primary evidence, there is still reason to be concerned about its use. Take breathalyzer tests, for example. They are notorious for being ineffective. Does there really need to be another tool that could get drivers in DUI trouble and then is later proven to be faulty?

Supporters of the flashlight’s use say that the device alone won’t lead to DUI arrests. The device reading will further support officers’ suspicion and indicate to them that other sobriety tests should be performed. They suggest that the group that will probably be most affected by the device would be drivers under 21, who could face legal consequences for having BAC levels as low as 0.02.

What do you think about this device? It hasn’t spread to Maryland, yet, but it could in the future. Do you feel like it’s a threat to people’s freedoms, or will it lead to more effective police work?

Source “Alcohol-Detecting Flashlights Introduced in State College DUI Enforcement,” Adam Smeltz, Sep. 27, 2011

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