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Can a Breathalyzer Test Be Wrong?

Can a Breathalyzer Test Be Wrong?

Can a Breathalyzer Test Be Wrong?

Law enforcement and the court system place a lot of faith in breathalyzers. But should they? Breath tests are made to be fairly accurate, but like all machines, breathalyzers aren’t infallible. Can a breathalyzer test be wrong? The answer is yes. Here’s a look at some of the most common causes of inaccurate readings.

Why Breathalyzer Results Might Be Wrong

There’s a Wider Margin of Error Than You Think

Wondering what can cause a false positive on a breathalyzer? These are some of the main causes of inaccurate readings on both field sobriety tests and more advanced machines.

Poor Calibration

Most machines have to be calibrated to maintain effectiveness. If you did no maintenance whatsoever on your car, it would eventually stop functioning as it should. It’s similar for breathalyzers. If a machine has not been maintained properly, it may show that you’re above the legal limit when you actually are not. Questioning the maintenance and accuracy of the breathalyzer is a somewhat common DUI defense.

Drinking Right Before the Test

Breathalyzers are designed to test blood alcohol levels, but they also pick up “mouth alcohol,” or alcohol that lingers in your mouth after a drink. If two people have an identical BAC and one of them takes a sip of alcohol right before the breathalyzer, that one will almost always have a higher breathalyzer reading.

Can a breathalyzer test be wrong? The answer is yes, and an incorrect reading might actually help your defense. If you’ve been charged with DUI, get in touch with the Law Office of Kevin Cahill at 720-445-9887 or through our online contact form.

Certain Medical Conditions

Having some types of medical conditions can also inflate your results. Here are some examples:

Each of these conditions interferes with the breathalyzer in a different way. If you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or heartburn, you release alcohol from both your lungs and your stomach, inflating results. If you have diabetes, increased acetone on your breath is read as alcohol by most breathalyzers. Inhalers for asthma, even those that do not contain ethanol, can “confuse” breathalyzers and lead to false positives. And cystic fibrosis, emphysema, and some other respiratory issues involve a significant amount of mucus, which also can alter results.

Some Medications

There aren’t many medications that can cause false positive readings on a  breathalyzer, but if you use any of these, you might be at risk for an inflated reading or a false positive:

  • Inhalers
  • Oral gels containing anesthetic
  • Cough drops
  • Cold medicine
  • Mouthwash or breath sprays that contain alcohol.

Keep in mind that some medications won’t impact a breathalyzer but may make you drowsy enough to appear to be more drunk. Opiates, muscle relaxants, and some antihistamines are a few examples. If you use illicit drugs, you also can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, a skilled defense attorney can review your case to look for possible reasons your test may be inaccurate. Sometimes, DUI cases involving potentially inaccurate breathalyzer readings can be thrown out.

Smoking, Vaping, or Using Tobacco

Believe it or not, nicotine can cause a false positive on a breathalyzer, but some types are more likely to than others. Many vapes contain ethanol as an unlisted ingredient. Vaping right before a breathalyzer may increase your chances of an inaccurate reading from both the nicotine and the ethanol.

Holding Your Breath

Some people hyperventilate when anxious. Others hold their breath. If you do the latter, a breathalyzer may show that you have a significantly higher BAC than you actually do. That’s because breathalyzers measure the aerosolized alcohol you exhale, and that aerosolized alcohol is transferred to your lungs from your blood when you breathe. The longer you hold a breath, the longer the air has to pick up alcohol molecules.

Arrested for DUI?

The Right Defense Makes a Difference

Some people think that an arrest for DUI automatically leads to a conviction, but that’s far from the truth. When you have a defense attorney with extensive DUI case experience, they will carefully examine your case to find procedural errors, reasons for false positives, and violations of your rights. These may be reasons for an acquittal.

It takes time to thoroughly review cases, and Kevin Cahill is an attorney who will invest the time needed to build the right defense for each client. He knows that no two clients — and no two defense strategies — are exactly alike, and he creates a customized strategy to increase your chances of a positive outcome.

If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI, the most important thing to do is find a qualified defense attorney. Call the Law Office of Kevin Cahill at 720-445-9887 or get in touch through the online contact form.

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