When quick-result alcohol breath tests became popular, it seemed like they were a slam dunk for drunk driving cases. The machines can detect the presence of alcohol in your breath and use that to calculate your blood alcohol content. But, breathalyzers are far from perfect.
Every year, courts throw out breathalyzer results. Last year, courts refused over 30,000 breathalyzer results in New Jersey and Massachusetts alone. Why? The tests are riddled with issues.
Police are not maintaining equipment properly
Breathalyzer machines use infrared radiation to determine your blood alcohol levels. The machine shines a light of radiation through your breath and detects how much light reflects back, making it possible to run necessary calculations. But, every bit of this equipment is highly sensitive.
In addition to not running consistent calibration tests, many police departments simply are not equipped to manage the cleaning and upkeep necessary to obtain accurate results. In some jurisdictions, the machines are in total disrepair, with rats nesting inside them.
Tests are not accurate
Even under the best maintenance, breath tests can be wildly inaccurate. Ask yourself:
- Have you had acid reflux?
- Did you finish a drink in the last hour?
- Are you eating a mint?
Any one of these simple things and more can lead to testing errors. But, police protocols rarely account for these factors. In some cases, tests return results four or five times higher than a person’s actual alcohol levels.
What this means for a drunk driving allegation
In some cases, additional analysis and evidence may outweigh your test results. There may even be grounds to throw out breathalyzer tests entirely. Take your rights seriously and find an attorney who understands the science behind breath tests.