New Breath Test Uses Cloud To Store Data

While a new breath test product has made following up with convicted DWI offenders easier and more efficient for parole officers, breath tests are rife with issues and produce false positives that may wrongly implicate drivers in a driving while intoxicated charge.

The portable breath test device Soberlink texts defendants when they need to take a breath test and then wirelessly sends test data, a photo of the offender and the date and time the test was taken to the offender's parole officer. The data is stored in the cloud. Soberlink's manufacturer believes that its product provides offenders a more "dignified" way to comply with breath test requirements and parole officers a more efficient option to track offenders. However, there are inherent issues in breath tests that may cause a false positive and wrongly implicate drivers.

Are Breath Tests Always Accurate?

Breath tests indirectly measure drivers' blood alcohol concentrations by using a ratio. This ratio makes an assumption that all drivers have similar ratios, when in fact these numbers can widely vary. These tests also assume all drivers have about the same cell volume of blood, or hematocrit, even though hematocrit levels can also vary widely. These fluctuations may cause false positives, showing that a driver is intoxicated when he or she is actually sober.

Breath tests also often confuse ethyl alcohol, the alcohol found in liquor, to methyl alcohol, a similar compound that does not indicate a driver has been drinking. There are over a hundred chemical compounds found in human breath, and methyl alcohols comprise a majority of them, leading to false positive test results. For example, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that diabetics and dieters have higher acetone levels in their breath than other individuals. These levels can show up on a breath test and cause law enforcement to believe a driver had been drinking when he or she had not.

Other factors also call the accuracy of breath tests into question. Exposure to certain products like paint, lacquer, gas or cleaning fluids may produce false positives, as can moisture, dirt, tobacco smoke or even blood or vomit in the driver's mouth.

Texas Breath and Blood Test Refusal Law

In Texas, if a driver fails a field sobriety test and is arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), he or she will be asked to take a breath or blood test to confirm the presence of alcohol in his or her system. If the driver refuses this test, law enforcement will confiscate his or her license and give the driver a notice that his or her license will be suspended.

Drivers have 15 days from the date of notice to contest the suspension; otherwise, the suspension takes effect on the 40th day from the date of notice. First-time offenders will have their licenses suspended for 180 days, while repeat offenders will have their licenses suspended for two years. Drivers must pay $125 to have their suspended licenses reinstated.

Due to the inaccuracy of breath tests, drivers who are accused of DWI and have refused a breath or blood test should contact an experienced DWI attorney who can help them contest the suspension and build a strong defense.