Have you been charged with driving under the influence? Chances are when you were pulled over a police officer administered a breathalyzer test. The results of the test may be used as evidence of an over-the-limit blood alcohol level, but many factors can affect the accuracy of a breath test. In fact, peer-reviewed studies have shown a 50 percent margin of error when comparing breathalyzer results to actual blood alcohol content. Is it possible the blood alcohol level estimated by your breath test was wrong? Yes. Here are four factors that could have compromised the results of your test.
1. Poor calibration
In order to give accurate results, a breathalyzer must be calibrated regularly and properly maintained. It should be periodically checked for accuracy. The officer administering the test must be certified to use the device. In addition, the test must capture at least two readings that are within .02 of one another. If any of these requirements are not met, a defense attorney may be able to argue that the breathalyzer results are inaccurate and inadmissible in court.
2. Electronic interference
Radio frequency transmissions can interfere with breathalyzers, leading to false readings. Hand-held police transmitters, police radar units, station dispatchers, teletypes and even AM and FM radios can emit electromagnetic interference that renders a device untrustworthy. Even devices equipped with an RFI detector may be unreliable.
3. Certain health conditions
Some health conditions will increase the level of acetone in a person’s body and breath, leading to a false positive result on a breathalyzer test. Breathalyzers cannot distinguish between acetone and ethyl alcohol. Diabetes, in particular, is known to elevate acetone levels.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also falsely inflate breathalyzer readings. Undigested alcohol may be pushed back up the digestive tract, creating a higher concentration of alcohol in the breath.
4. Exposure to chemicals
Breathalyzers do not actually measure the alcohol level in a person’s blood. Instead, they measure the alcohol in the air, and a formula is used to convert that reading into an estimate of the person’s blood alcohol level. However, breathalyzers cannot distinguish between alcohol and many other compounds. Individuals who work with oil-based paint, varnish, paint remover, lacquer, gasoline, celluloid, cement, cleaning fluid and other high-VOC chemicals may retain enough chemical fumes in their breath to trigger a false-positive result on a breath test.
If you are facing a DUI charge, you should know that there are many factors that can influence the blood alcohol level estimated by a breath test. A defense attorney can examine the evidence and help you ensure that you are not wrongly convicted.