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Indiana State Police put ‘alcohol sniffers’ to test for Labor Day weekend

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana State Police troopers are equipped with 777 so-called “ambient air alcohol sniffers.”

With the devices, police said, Labor Day weekend drivers need not worry about being wrongly accused of unlawful intoxication. 

The primary purpose of new Alco-Sensor FST is as a preliminary breath tests, but state police Sgt. John Perrine said the ambient air sniffer will be a useful tool in the right circumstances. 

“This by itself will not make a DUI case. There has to be other things present, other investigative techniques that we use to determine if someone is intoxicated or not but this definitely helps,” Perrine said. 

The police sergeant said the sniffer takes a sample of the air and tests it for the presence of alcohol. It can be sensitive enough to track alcohol in a car or a room. 

The alcohol sniffers first made headlines in 2017, and some drivers have been concerned the sniffers will notice spilled alcohol on clothing or inside a vehicle. Some drivers also think the device will alert the trooper to a passenger’s intoxication, but the driver will be suspected. 

“Just because this goes off doesn’t mean alcohol is 100 percent there, but it’s just a tool that were going to use to begin or within our investigation,” Perrine said. “If you do get beer spilled on you but you haven’t been drinking, this could pick it up, but again we’re going to use more investigative techniques to get the answers to that.” 

Our News 8 crew put the alcohol sniffer to the test by opening a can of beer inside a WISH-TV vehicle. After a few minutes, Perrine tested the air in the car with the sniffer and the response was negative. When he placed the sensor directly over the open can or a larger cup filled with beer, it registered as positive. 

“It’s a great way for me to be able to test drinks at an underage party, at a concert. If someone has a Yeti cup, I can quickly walk around with this,” the police sergeant said. 

With more than 700 devices on hand, nearly every Indiana State Police vehicle will have an alcohol sniffer. Other vehicles will continue to carry the older portable breath test equipment. 

The Alco-Sensor FSTs came from a grant by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Last October, more than 100 were distributed to local law enforcement agencies across Indiana. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department received 100 devices. 

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