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Are Breathalyzers Completely Accurate?

When you’re arrested and charged with driving under the influence, you’ll be required to take a blood alcohol content test through one of three common chemical methods: urine, blood, or breath. The breath test is by far the most common in that it’s non-invasive, easy to conduct, inexpensive, and produces results quickly. However, while many people believe that these tests are infallible and a positive reading is a guaranteed sign of conviction, few people realize just how easily the results could be skewed. In other words, don’t think your only option is to plead guilty if you blow over .08; your results could be skewed by factors that you’re not aware of.

On this blog, we’ll discuss just a few factors that could cause your breathalyzer tests to be jeopardized, and thus invalid as evidence against you.

Mouth Alcohol

When you finish a drink, you probably don’t feel the effects of the alcohol right away. However, the smell and presence of alcohol still remains in your mouth for quite a while before the drink takes full effect. This alcohol could have an impact on your breathalyzer results. When you blow into the machine, the breath that leaves your mouth will pick up traces of the alcohol still in your mouth, increasing the concentration and increasing the chances that you blow over the limit. However, because this alcohol isn’t in your system, your result isn’t accurate. This is why officers are generally required to wait at least half an hour after making an arrest before testing someone—but they don’t always do that.

Bad Calibration

A breathalyzer test is like any other mechanical instrument: it needs to be correctly calibrated in order to work properly. If the machine hasn’t been calibrated in an extended period of time, or the technician who calibrated the machine made an error in doing so, then the result may be off. Even a small error can make the difference between your sample passing as legal and blowing over the limit and facing the consequences of a DUI charge. Generally, your attorney will request the calibration records of any breathalyzer machine as soon as possible in order to look for discrepancies they use to build your defense.

Human Error

Breathalyzer machines are pretty easy to use, but you still need to have a qualified and knowledgeable person run the test in order to ensure accurate results. If the person performing the test makes a mistake or allows the test to be conducted in a way that’s not according to protocol, then the results could be inaccurate and rule the test invalid. Even though computer software does most of the work these days, someone still needs to pay attention.

Bad Sample

Much like blood and breath tests, the only way to get a truly accurate reading is to take multiple samples. One sample could be tainted somehow or another may have been erroneously collected. Therefore, officers should take multiple readings in order to gain a better sample size and be more confident with the results. A single sample could have all kinds of things wrong with it that could lead to a false positive.

Have you been arrested and charged with driving under the influence? Let our Scranton DUI lawyer help you with your case! Call the Law Offices of William D. Thompson at (570) 666-1068 to request a case evaluation today!