York Police First in Pennsylvania with Drunk-o-meter
According to a Gazette and Daily clipping I found in the files at York County Heritage .Trust, in 1948 the York Police department was the first in Pennsylvania to acquire a Drunkometer, the predecessor to the Breathalyzer.
In 1948 there was as yet no Pennsylvania statute defining the level of blood alcohol that meant a person was legally intoxicated. That would come a few years later, making the results obtained by the machines admissible in Pennsylvania courts. Still it was a good first step, letting people know that the amount of alcohol in their blood could now be scientifically measured.
The clipping reads:
County Officials See Drunk-o-meter Demonstrated Here
The York Police department is the first one in Pennsylvania to acquire the Harger drunk-o-meter, a scientific mechanism used in measuring the alcoholic contents in the blood stream of an individual.
Demonstrations given recently before 90 members of the Exchange club in the Hotel Yorktowne were described by Chief of Police Nelson L. Shultz as “successful.”
Viewing the demonstration by special invitation were Judges Harvey A. Gross and Walter I. Anderson, and District Attorney Harold B. Rudisill.
The utility of the machine is predicted on the contention that an individual is “under the influence of liquor” when his or her alcoholic content of blood reaches .15 of 1 per cent, Lt. W. D. Myers, of the York police, explained during the demonstration.
However it was made clear that the findings of a drunk-o-meter are not accepted now as evidence against an individual in Pennsylvania courts, because of the fact that there is no law in the state declaring what alcoholic content of the blood stream constitutes intoxication in an individual.
E. H. Westwick, safety director for the Pennsylvania Automotive association, who was in charge of the demonstration, said the drunk-o-meter is used extensively in Indiana and Michigan, and in various parts of New York state.
Click here to see the current blood alcohol levels and penalties for drunk driving under Pennsylvania law.