What Does the Odor of Alcohol Mean

Island Law Office

Police always say they smell the odor of alcohol, and even worse, the odor of intoxicants. What the heck does this mean and why does it help to establish Reasonable Suspicion or Probable Cause?

It sounds like it shouldn’t. In Police officers’ detection of breath odors from alcohol ingestion by Moskowitz, Burns and Ferguson, Accident Analysis and Prevention 31 (1999) 175-180, they point out that the smell is not all that helpful. And in fact, in optimum conditions, only twothirds of the time was it detected in BACs below .08 and 85% of the time in excess of .08.

The results were worse after food consumption. BAC guesses based on odor were no better than guessing. The study found breath odor detection was unreliable. Where you have a case with odor alone and where SFST’s are considered a search.

Recent Posts