Are breath tests always accurate?

If you are pulled over in California on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be asked to undergo a roadside breath test. Although law enforcement officers use this test to determine whether a person is driving drunk, studies show the results of the test are often inaccurate. In fact, they can differ by at least 15 percent from the results of a blood alcohol test. This could lead to a wrongful DUI charge.

Research from the State University of New York at Potsdam shows that the readings on a hand-held breath test device may differ from the results obtained from an actual blood alcohol test. The breath test is designed to detect the amount of alcohol contained in a breath sample and convert that amount to a blood alcohol content level. The problem lies in the fact that substances found in a person’s mouth and in the environment, can affect breath test readings. In some cases, it can inflate the results. Environmental pollution, dirt, cigarette smoke, gas fumes, as well as the relative humidity and temperature can all affect breath test readings.

Furthermore, it has been found that residual food, drinks, vomit and blood contained in the mouth can increase the amount of alcohol detected in a breath sample. If you have inhaled paint fumes, you may have a higher BAC as well. Machines that have not been calibrated correctly or properly maintained may produce erroneous readings as well.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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