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Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

New tools to nab drunken drivers

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - Fines collected from drunk drivers are being used to buy technology to snag more offenders.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey is purchasing 10 portable Intoxilyzer units for road patrol cars. The equipment will be paid through the sheriff's Enforcement and Education Fund, which is subsidized with fines paid by offenders convicted of driving under the influence.
The total cost of the Intoxilyzers is $3,025. County commissioners approved the purchase on Tuesday.
The portable Intoxilyzers are much smaller than the Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) DataMaster that is housed at the county's adult detention center, Grey said.
"These things are almost pocket-size," he said, describing the miniature units.
Several area law enforcement agencies - including Celina and Fort Recovery - already use them, Grey said.
The machines are designed to measure breath-alcohol levels by using infrared spectrometry. When someone blows into the machine, the presence of breath-alcohol reduces the amount of the infrared light that reaches the detector.
In Ohio, drivers cannot have more than .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath or a level of .08 or more. Penalties for driving under the influence can include a 90-day to 5-year administrative license suspension, three days to one year in jail, and fines ranging from $250 to $10,000.
The portable units will be used to establish "probably cause" at the scene but won't be relied upon for court convictions, he explained.
"We would not be able to convict you by blowing into that little machine," he said. "A subject would be offered a new test when they get back to the (sheriff's) office," Grey said.
The Intoxilyzers will serve as an additional type of field sobriety test - such as walking a straight line - that officers use to help determine if a motorist is under the influence of alcohol, he said.
"We always worry about letting a person go if we're not sure. You always fear that if you make the wrong decision, they'll go down the road, have an accident and hurt somebody," Grey said. "These will help us make better decisions."
Because the units can be easily transported, the sheriff believes they'd be ideal to use at school proms or other functions where teens gather.
"Or possibly, we could offer their use to parents who want to check their kids," he said. "We want to work with parents any way we can to help keep their kids safe."
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