Although breathalyzers are commonly used to indicate intoxication in drunk driving cases, they aren't 100% accurate. If you've been charged with a DUI/DWI, understanding when breathalyzers can provide false readings may be crucial to your defense.
How Does a Breathalyzer Work?
A breathalyzer, whether you're referring to the portable version used on the side of the road or the more sophisticated version used in a police station, measures the amount of alcohol in exhaled air. It attempts to provide an estimation of your blood alcohol content (BAC), but only an actual blood test can give this reading.
What Causes Inaccurate Results?
Studies have shown that breathalyzer readings vary at least 15% from actual blood alcohol levels, with 23% of subjects having breathalyzer results giving readings that are in excess of their true blood alcohol levels.
Some of the many factors that can cause an inaccurate reading include:
- Burping or suffering from acid reflux
- Using mouthwash
- Following a low-carb diet, such as the Atkins diet or Paleo diet
- Suffering from hypoglycemia
- Recently taking certain prescription medications
- Body temperature
- Breathing rate
- Operator error
- Improper calibration of the machine
Law enforcement officers are well aware that breathalyzer tests are vulnerable to error. For this reason, many officers will take several readings to try to obtain a more consistent result. Unfortunately, even multiple readings don't necessarily guarantee the accuracy of the test.
When Should You Challenge the Test Results?
If your breathalyzer result puts you well over the legal limit, challenging the accuracy of the test might not help your case. However, if you blow slightly over the 0.08% legal limit, arguing that the test results are inaccurate could get your case thrown out.
Being convicted of drunk driving can have serious consequences for your future, including a criminal record, significant fines, and higher insurance premiums. Protect yourself by hiring a skilled defense attorney. Please call today to schedule a free consultation with Virginia DUI/DWI attorney T. Kevin Wilson.