Breathalyser used worldwide, court hears

2011-05-24 20:39

Cape Town - Dräger breath-testing equipment was marketed worldwide and modified to suit the needs of individual countries, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

No country in the entire world had ever rejected the equipment as unreliable, Dräger expert Jurgen Sohege said.

Sohege was the first of a number of experts called to the witness stand in a Dräger test case involving motorist Clifford Joseph Hendricks.

Hendricks has pleaded not guilty to driving while the alcohol vapour in his exhaled breath was 0.95mg. The maximum allowed is 0.24.

He has claimed that the Dräger Alcotest used in South Africa is unreliable and therefore unconstitutional.

Sohege told Judge Nathan Erasmus and assessor Sasha Curic that he had worked for the Dräger company for 20 years, and that the breath-testing equipment was first introduced in the United States in the 50s.

It measured the concentration of alcohol in the breath, he said.

He said drunk-driving suspects had to blow into a tube that formed part of the equipment, which was designed to detect gas concentration in the breath.

The apparatus analysed the gas concentration and then indicated the alcohol level in a suspect's breath.

Sohege said part of his function was to research international medical, safety and gas-detection practices.

There were ongoing discussions about whether Dräger equipment was suitable for testing the consumption of alcohol in relation to the liquor-related carnage on the roads.

"Dräger equipment is used widely throughout the world, and I am an expert in this field," he testified.

"When questions come up concerning breath-alcohol tests, we are obliged to answer as best we can."

What was required of Dräger equipment differed from country to country.


In Tuesday's proceedings, a document containing prosecuting guidelines for "evidentiary breath testing" was handed to the court.

According to the document, the equipment may only be operated by a registered and appointed traffic or police officer.

The traffic or police officer had to have passed an operator's course for the particular model of apparatus in use, and had to be in possession of an operator's certificate of competence.

According to the document, the equipment had to comply with the National Road Traffic Act, and had to be calibrated at least every six months.

A certified copy of the calibration certificate had to be available on site.

Equipment that was outside the six-month period had to be re-calibrated before it could be used for prosecution purposes.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

  • Macho Mike - 2011-05-24 21:34

    Eish, somebody is "Lion" here. Whatever will "beer" will "beer". It's simply a "Black and White" issue this. "Amstel" confused as to why Hendricks thinks he can "Castle" the court.Stop "wine"-ing and face facts - jy was dronk.

      mike - 2011-05-24 21:43

      Actually interested to hear the outcome of this. Am I right to say they argueing that alcohol in your breath doesn't translate to blood content? Or if not what is the basis of the defence?

      Proffie - 2011-05-24 21:46

      Good one Mike, very funny!

      DILLIGAS - 2011-05-24 21:54

      @Mike..exactly correct...Until recently you could only be prosecuted on blood evidence. The "breathalyser" was only an indicator to decide whether the district surgeon should take blood or not! If you have ever researched DD prosecutions you will know how much the breathalyser test differs from the actual BAC% returned by a blood test!!

      iqanda - 2011-05-24 22:07

      shaapa mike shaapa ;-)

  • horsehair - 2011-05-24 22:10

    just give the police oke 50 bucks. That's what I do since moving into ANC land. never been arrested, just bribed....

  • Janneman27 - 2011-05-24 22:13 I know how to bypass the test...just make sure an idiot without proper certification tests you...

      phutis - 2011-05-25 11:07

      HOw are you going to make sure that the idiot testing you is without proper certification?

  • Percy Higgins - 2011-05-24 22:24

    I wonder whether Judge Aikona Motata will testify as an expert witness?

  • Charles Urinavi - 2011-05-25 01:46

    maybe he[hendricks] is right..?

  • preshengovender69 - 2011-05-25 08:36

    if you eat charcoal you can pass the breathalyser

  • Herman - 2011-05-25 08:50

    so does this mean that if i take one neat shot of tequila and blow that i'll be over the limit?

  • Nutzman - 2011-05-25 08:55

    We all forget Mac Maharaj. He introduced the Drager breath analyser in 1998. It was hailed as the "shortcut". Dont need blood tests. However where they slipped up, was that they were getting the person been tested to sign the printout and using that in court as an admission of guilt. Fell flat, and drifted off the radar. Now some newby, thinks (after a kickback), that they have the answer. The problem is the blood test lab is in chaos, hence the reason, why they want the breathaliser to be king????

      Fred Basset - 2011-05-25 11:16

      I have been on the unfortunate receiving end of the Drager equipment in the UK, and can share the following facts: 1. A calibrated Drager breathalyser is admissible in court for prosecution, if the accused chooses not to have a blood sample tested (you cannot force somebody to give a blood sample under UK law). 2. If the accused agrees to give a blood sample, the blood sample is used in court and the Drager result is not submitted for evidence (even if the Drager says you are 10x over the limit). 3. The accused is always given the option of a blood sample. (so you can try the Drager first and if you fail you can then request the blood sample). 4. No police officer is allowed to take your blood. Only a state registered doctor is allowed to take the sample. As such, there is often a long delay between the Drager test and the blood sample (could be up to 6 hours before the local state doctor is available to take blood). This does not affect the outcome - the result is still bases only on the blood sample.

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