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Breathalyzer results are surprisingly inaccurate

On Behalf of | May 7, 2020 | DUI

Are you ready for a story with a troubling outcome? 

Let’s say you, a man or woman, go to dinner with some friends and pair your meal friendly chatter with two or three glasses of beer or wine. While it’s culturally frowned upon, you choose to drive home because you paired your couple drinks with a meal and some water. You know that it is highly unlikely that your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit of 0.08%. It is always a better decision to get a ride home, but we all know that life doesn’t always work that way.

On your way home, you speed a little bit and get pulled over. The officer decides that he would like to have you perform a smattering of sobriety tests, one being blowing into a breathalyzer to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). The breathalyzer results indicate that your BAC is well above the legal limit. You are charged with a DUI and hauled off to jail to face the consequences.

What causes inaccurate breathalyzer results?

Police arrest nearly 1.5 million Americans annually for drinking and driving offenses. How many drivers could avoid jail and DUI charges if breathalyzer readers provided consistently correct results? Instead, the faulty machines are frequently sending back results 40% higher than the driver’s actual BAC.

What factors lead to faulty readings from time to time?

  1. Miscalibration: Breathalyzer machines are highly technical and are re-calibrated and updated nearly often enough.
  2. Software errors: Because breathalyzers are so technical, they run off software, which itself experiences glitches from time to time
  3. Human error: This includes either the officer misusing the machine, or not performing multiple tests on a single driver, which allows officers to ensure the first reading was accurate or inaccurate.
  4. Foreign substances: Items like mouth wash, breath mints, and certain dental medications can include a high enough alcohol content to skew a breathalyzer reading.
  5. Factors out of our control: Elements in the air, like paint fumes, smoke, varnish, and plastic or adhesive chemicals, can lead to false results.

Yes, you can hire an attorney to help you fight the charges and claim the breathalyzer was defective, but faulty readings should not occur in the first place.

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