Breath Alcohol Section

BreathAlcohol@washoecounty.us
Phone: (775) 328-8721

The Nevada Breath Alcohol Program is a state program regulated by the Nevada Revised Statute (NRS), chapter 484C, and the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC), chapter 484.  The program is overseen by the Committee on Testing for Intoxication and administered by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Division (WCSO-FSD) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Forensic Laboratory (LVMPD-FL).  The Breath Alcohol Program provides a cost-effective and non-evasive means to perform evidential alcohol (ethanol) tests in accordance with the NRS and NAC.

The Breath Alcohol Section of the WCSO-FSD is responsible for providing the services of the Breath Alcohol Program for 13 counties in Northern and Central Nevada.  There are currently over 35 Evidential Breath-Testing Devices (EBT) used by over 30 different agencies in these counties.  The Breath Alcohol Section is responsible for the calibration and maintenance of the EBTs; preparation of the aqueous solution of ethanol used in conjunction with these devices; and the training and certification of breath testing operators.

Breath Alcohol Procedure and Analysis

Evidentiary Breath-Testing Devices

The breath testing procedure is designed to provide a series of safeguards to ensure that the results obtained during an evidentiary breath test are both accurate and reliable.  A Checklist for Operators of Breath-Testing Devices is used with every test to ensure that these safeguards remain in place and that all breath tests are conducted in the same way.   The two EBTs currently used in Nevada are the Intoxilyzer 5000 and Intoxilyzer 5000EN.  These instruments use Infrared Spectroscopy to analyze the concentration of alcohol (ethanol) in a person’s breath.  The Intoxilyzer 5000 and 5000EN also have a number of safeguards built into the software and the design of the instrument to ensure that the results obtained are valid and accurate.

 

 

Preliminary Breath-Testing Devices

Preliminary breath testing devices (PBTs) are typically hand-held, battery operated devices meant to be used in conjunction with the standardized field sobriety tests or other situations where an evidentiary test is not necessary.  There are many different types PBT used in Nevada.  The PBT procedure must meet the manufacturer’s recommendations and the recommendations of the Forensic Analyst of Alcohol (FAA).  Most PBTs use Fuel Cells to analyze for the concentration of alcohol (ethanol) in a person’s breath.   

    

 

Calibrations and Maintenance

Evidentiary Breath-Testing Devices

Evidentiary Breath-Testing Devices must be calibrated at least once every 90 days by a certified Forensic Analyst of Alcohol.  The calibration must include the instrument’s response and accuracy to at least three different concentrations of alcohol (ethanol).  Various diagnostic checks recommended by the instrument’s manufacturer are also performed during the calibration.  All data from the calibration is recorded in an instrument specific notebook.   

Preliminary Breath-Testing Devices

Preliminary Breath-Testing Devices must be calibrated once a year by the agency using the device or by a FAA. The calibration must include the PBT’s response and accuracy to at least three different concentrations of alcohol and an alcohol free sample. A monthly check using one concentration of alcohol must also be performed by that agency or a FAA to verify that the PBT is working properly.

Certified Simulator Solution

The Certified Simulator Solution is an aqueous solution of ethanol used to verify that the EBT is working properly immediately before an evidential breath test.  The solution is prepared and then analyzed using Headspace Gas Chromatography by the FAAs within the Breath Alcohol Section.  Each batch of solution has a unique lot number and is given a certified value based on the results from the analysis.  The solution is placed into a device called a “Simulator”.  The Simulator and solution are used to simulate a breath sample with a known concentration of alcohol.  The EBT analyzes the sample from the Simulator to verify that the instrument is accurately determining the concentration of alcohol (ethanol) with every test.   

 

Operator Certification

Class Registration

Intoxilyzer 5000 Certification/Recertification Courses and the PBT Instructor/Calibration Courses are scheduled on an as needed basis.   If interested in upcoming classes please email breathalcohol@washoecounty.us and provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Agency
  • Desired Class Location(s) (Reno, Carson, Churchill County, Elko, etc.)
  • Class Type(s) (see below for class information)
  • Operator Expiration Date (Intoxilyzer Courses Only)
  • Comments

Please be aware that classes will only be scheduled when there are enough students to fill a class and it may take a several weeks or months to schedule a class for certain areas.Classes will not be scheduled for all locations and the class location will depend upon facility availability and class demand. When a class is scheduled, information will be emailed to all the students that have inquired about a class in that location.

Intoxilyzer 5000 Certification Course

Operators must attend and complete the Intoxilyzer 5000 Certification Course in order to operate the Intoxilyzer 5000 and Intoxilyzer 5000EN.  The class is a four hour P.O.S.T. (Peace Officers’ Standards and Training) certified course.  The operator’s certification is valid for three years and the operator must complete a recertification course in order to maintain their certification.  There is an additional six month grace period after the three year expiration for an operator to still qualify for the recertification course.  Any operator that expires past the six month grace period must attend and complete the four hour certification course again in order to recertify.

Intoxilyzer 5000 Recertification Course

Operators that have completed the initial four hour Intoxilyzer 5000 Certification Course and have not expired past the six month grace period are eligible to attend a 2 hour P.O.S.T. certified Intoxilyzer 5000 Recertification Course.  Completion of this course will recertify the operator for another three years on the Intoxilyzer 5000 and Intoxilyzer 5000EN.

PBT Instructor Course

Please Note: It is mandatory that students who attend this course are currently certified as an Intoxilyzer 5000 operator.

The PBT Instructor Course is designed for specific PBT models and each class will be tailored for the PBT(s) used by the agency or agencies within the class.  The students will be trained on how to properly calibrate the PBT(s) in accordance with the NAC, the manufacturer requirements and recommendations of the FAA.  The students that attend this course will be trained and certified as a PBT instructor.  PBT instructors will be able to train officers only on the PBT(s) that were taught in their instructor course.  PBT instructors will have to attend additional courses to become instructor certified on new PBT models.  There is no recertification requirement for a PBT instructor; however, it is recommended that the PBT instructors attend this class as a refresher every few years.  The PBT Instructor Course is an all day course that is restricted in class size and is only taught a couple times a year.  Students attending a PBT Instructor Course are asked to bring at least one PBT to class.

PBT Calibration Course

Please Note: It is mandatory that students who attend this course are currently certified as an Intoxilyzer 5000 operator.

The PBT Calibration Course is designed for specific PBT models and each class will be tailored for the PBT(s) used by the agency or agencies within the class.  The students will only be trained on the calibration of the instruments and will not be certified as instructors.  The class will cover the NAC and manufacturer requirements, as well as the recommendations of the FAA.  It is recommended that smaller agencies have at least two people trained in PBT calibration and three to six people trained for the larger agencies.  Students attending a PBT Calibration Course are asked to bring at least one PBT to class.

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