ADA COUNTY -- The Ada County Sheriff's Office has a new tool in the quest to detect alcohol -- it can even detect if there was alcohol in an empty cup or container.
It's called a Lifeloc.
Law enforcement agents say the technology will help ensure offenders are following the rules of their probation. That's because many probationers in Ada County are forbidden from drinking.
Ada County Sheriff's Office Deputy Adam Babbitt and the people at the Court Services Bureau try make sure these offenders comply. They have two new Lifeloc tools just for the Court Services Bureau to help them out.
"When I started in law enforcement in 1999, it was a large Intoxilyzer machine," said Babbitt. "It looked like it ran off an old computer program. And so now we have these much smaller, that are not much larger than a cell phone, devices that are capable of doing all the same stuff just as accurately."
The device can be used to take a breath alcohol test, or to see if there was alcohol in a container.
"We can maintain compliance with these folks by making sure that they are not drinking," said Babbitt. "So if I take a probation officer out and we do a home visit of some kind, I can tell right then and there if any of the liquids in their houses have alcohol or not, just simply by using the Lifeloc device."
To use the Lifeloc, an officer holds the device over the mouth of the empty container for a few seconds, and it detects even a slight amount of alcohol.
"Many of our folks who we're trying to maintain compliance on struggle with alcohol problems, and they've had a life-long experience at trying to hide their drinking. So this just gives us another tool to determine whether they are still drinking or not," Babbitt said.
Babbitt said alcohol use is an issue with many people on probation. However, he also says not all offenders have committed an alcohol-related crime.
"If we're able to determine when people are starting to re-offend, we can address that much, much earlier and we can handle it in a different way," he said.
The two new Lifeloc devices cost around $2,800 each, and are being paid for in large part by a grant from the Idaho Transportation Department Office of Highway Safety.