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Can a breath test give incorrect results?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2024 | DWI |

Breath tests, commonly used by law enforcement to determine a driver’s blood alcohol content, are a standard tool in driving under the influence investigations. These devices aim to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath, thereby estimating their level of intoxication.

While breath tests can provide quick and essential information to police officers on the roadside, questions about their accuracy and reliability often arise. In fact, several factors can lead to false results, casting doubt on the accuracy of these devices. Understanding the limitations and variables that can affect breath test outcomes is important for a fair legal process.

Residual alcohol in the mouth

Mouth alcohol refers to the presence of alcohol in the mouth or throat, which can significantly alter breath test readings. This can occur if someone has recently used mouthwash, taken a sip of alcohol or even burped, bringing up alcohol from the stomach into the mouth and throat.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, including acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease or diabetes, can affect breath test results. These conditions can lead to the presence of compounds in the breath that breath tests may misinterpret as ethyl alcohol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

Device calibration and operator error

Proper calibration and maintenance of breath test devices are necessary for accurate readings. If a device is not correctly calibrated or if the operator does not use it properly, the results can be inaccurate. Training and adherence to protocols are essential to minimize this risk.

The awareness that not all breath tests are accurate ensures that each case receives the careful consideration it deserves, protecting individuals from potential injustices due to flawed evidence.