How Accurate Is a Breathalyzer Test?


If you were traveling home from a bar, a friend’s home or another place and were stopped by the police for a traffic violation, you’re much like many other people in the U.S. People make mistakes, so it’s not uncommon to get a speeding ticket or to have an officer stop you for weaving.

Many officers take this time to talk to drivers to see if they appear to be impaired. If they think that the person has been drinking or using other substances that could make it dangerous for them to drive, then they have a right to ask you to give a breath sample.

A Breathalyzer test is fairly accurate, but it’s not perfect. If you give a sample and it shows you’re intoxicated when you’re not, you could be a victim of an improperly performed test, a test that wasn’t calibrated correctly or an officer who doesn’t follow the rules of the test as required. Even if the test is wrong, you could still face a DUI.

How accurate are Breathalyzer tests?

Professional-grade Breathalyzers use fuel cell technology and are usually very accurate. However, they may falsely identify things like mouthwash or breath fresheners as alcohol that skews the reading. There are also other potential issues that could lead to inaccuracy, such as:

·Human error, such as not breathing into it long enough

·Poor calibration, so that the test comes back too high

·Consistency issues, such as not performing enough tests

·Environmental factors, like outside fumes that could trigger a false positive

·Software problems that have bugs or glitch

Less commonly, semiconductor sensor technology is used in Breathalyzers. This technology is more likely to give a false positive from ketones, which are common in diabetics, and the chemicals in hairspray, for example.

What can you do if a Breathalyzer gives a false positive?

Stay calm if a Breathalyzer gives a false positive. An officer should give more than one test. Those two tests have to have similar readings. If they do not, then the accuracy of the tests will come into question.

If you are arrested, ask to speak with your attorney. They may be able to help you avoid a DUI with a defense against the Breathalyzer test readings.

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