5 Factors That Can Distort Breathalyzer Test Accuracy

If you’ve ever been pulled over for a DUI, then you know that one of the first things that the police will do is subject you to a breathalyzer test. This simple device can be the deciding factor in your case, testing over 0.08 can get you in some serious trouble. However, did you know those breathalyzers are not always as accurate as they should be?

Unfortunately, because the thinking is that these tests are infallible, most police officers and prosecutors will trust them implicitly. But, once you look at the evidence, it’s apparent that they should be scrutinized more often than not, thanks to a variety of factors that can influence how effective they are.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what can impact the accuracy of a breathalyzer, as well as what to do if you feel that you were unfairly subjected to an imperfect test.

Ways to distort breathalyzer test accuracy

1. The Breathalyzer Itself

Although the purpose of this machine is simple, the way that it’s made is relatively complicated. As such, different manufacturers can use a variety of materials and methods when producing these devices, which can lead to different readings based on the make and model being used.

Depending on where you live, local laws may govern breathalyzers, meaning that all of them used out in the field have to be compliant if they are going to hold up in court. If that isn’t the case, then your lawyer may successfully prove that the wrong device was used, meaning that your DUI may be overturned.

2. Calibration of the Test

If you want to make sure that your thermometer is working, what do you do? The correct answer is that you put it in a cup of ice water and wait for it to reach 32 degrees. If this doesn’t happen, then your thermometer isn’t calibrated correctly and must either be corrected or replaced.

The same is true with breathalyzers. Because these machines are so complex, they have to be calibrated correctly on a regular basis, lest they produce incorrect results. In fact, most of the time, police officers are supposed to recalibrate their breathalyzers every time they’re used, as well as make a note of it each time that happens.

As we all know, mistakes happen, and sometimes this doesn’t occur. Fortunately, if you were subjected to a test that hadn’t been calibrated correctly or recently, you may be able to argue that it was not working correctly when it was used on you.

3. Single Use Testing

Using our thermometer analogy again, let’s say that you take your temperature and it’s higher than average. Would you trust it the first time, especially if you didn’t feel particularly hot? Probably not, right?

Well, the same should hold true of a breathalyzer test. Because detecting alcohol in your mouth is not an exact science, multiple tests should be conducted to make sure that you are, in fact, over the legal limit.

Unfortunately, most officers will only administer the test once, meaning that if you fail, you could be facing a DUI, even if repeated tests may come to different conclusions. According to research, the variance in accuracy can be as much as 12%, which shows how necessary it is to get multiple readings before making a final assessment.

Thus, if you were not subjected to multiple tests, then you may be able to claim that the accuracy was not established correctly. Because of this variance, it’s imperative for all officers to double and triple-check if necessary to ensure accuracy.

4. Medical Conditions

Breathalyzers are designed to pick up on alcohol in your breath, but that doesn’t always mean that it came from drinking. Alcohol can take a variety of forms, some of which can occur naturally in the body.

If you have certain medical conditions such as diabetes or acid-reflux, then you may produce enzymes that can be misread as ethyl alcohol by the test. If that happens, then it’s imperative that you share your conditions when being subjected so that the officer can administer multiple tests or recalibrate the device as necessary.

When it comes to defending your case in court, as long as a physician has documented your condition, it may be enough to dismiss the accuracy of the test and help your situation.

5. Breathing Patterns

Because these tests are relatively sensitive, it doesn’t take much to alter a reading. This variance is why multiple tests are necessary in most cases, as different breathing patterns can skew the results one way or the other.

For example, keeping your mouth closed may result in a higher concentration of ethyl alcohol. So can holding your breath before the test. Although variance may not be substantial, it can be enough to set you over the legal limit. Remember, we’re talking about tenths of a percentage point, so every bit counts.

Although it’s much harder to prove how you were breathing before the test was administered, it shows how crucial it is for officers to conduct multiple tests before making an arrest. If that didn’t happen, then you can usually show how easy it is to skew the results, which can make them irrelevant to your case.

Bottom Line – Contact Leyba Defense

If you’ve been involved in a DUI, you want the best representation. We know that these cases can severely impact your life, which is why we’ll fight for you every step of the way. You have options, call us and see how we can help.