Factors that impact the accuracy of a breath test

If you have ever been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, you may have been asked to submit to a breath test. Intended to give authorities an idea of how much alcohol you consumed and whether that consumption has negatively impacted your ability to safely drive, the breath test uses a device called a breathalyzer to assess your blood alcohol level to see if it is above the 0.08-percent legal limit.

If you find yourself charged with drunk driving, the potential legal repercussions are harsh. How strict your punishment will be will likely depend on factors such as whether it was your first offense, how high your blood-alcohol level was and so on. With so much to lose, it is important to understand the circumstances under which breathalyzers may produce false readings and results. Breathalyzer results may prove inaccurate due to:

A test subject’s diabetes or related health condition

If a diabetic has a blood-glucose attack, it may affect her or him in a manner similar to alcohol in that the person may appear dizzy, confused or disoriented. Furthermore, diabetics can develop a condition known as ketoacidosis, which can lead to a false high breathalyzer reading.

Burping, belching or vomiting

Bodily functions, such as burping or vomiting, have the potential to render your breathalyzer test inaccurate. Most law enforcement officials are well aware of this, and they are typically trained to observe you closely after pulling you over on suspicion of drunk driving to make sure none of these actions occur. If they do, authorities must wait a specific amount of time (usually about 20 minutes) before they can attempt to re-administer the breath test.

A poorly calibrated device

A malfunctioning, misused or poorly calibrated device is another reason a breathalyzer may produce an inaccurate reading, and it is one of the more commonly cited reasons people challenge breathalyzers. For its results to hold up in court, a breathalyzer must be administered by someone properly trained and certified to do so, and it also must fall under a list of acceptable breath test devices. It also must be assessed for accuracy periodically, and the administrator has to take two separate, consecutive readings that produce results within 0.02 percent of one another.

While these are some of the more commonly cited reasons people facing drunk driving charges challenge their breath test results, this is not meant to serve as a comprehensive list. If you are facing a drunk driving charge and believe your breath test results were not accurate, you may find it beneficial to contact an attorney.