A Breathalyzer test is a handheld device that analyzes someone’s breath for ethanol molecules in order to calculate their blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Typically, these breath alcohol tests are requested by law enforcement after a traffic stop whenever the officer decides that a driver might be intoxicated. While there’s no guarantee that you won’t face charges even with a lower BAC, a reading of .08% or above means that you meet the “per se” or legal definition of “too drunk to drive.”
But, what if you find yourself staring at the breathalyzer reading in disbelief? You certainly don’t feel intoxicated, so how can the reading be so high?
Breathalyzers aren’t as accurate as they may seem
Even top-of-the-line models can be woefully inaccurate in their readings, so that means any blood alcohol content reading is open for challenge. Breathalyzer devices can give misreadings because of things like:
- Flaws in the design of the equipment: There are numerous makes and models of these devices out there in use. Not all of them are comparable in quality, and some of their readings are closer to a “range” than a precise number.
- Improperly calibrated machines: Those breathalyzer devices are bounced around quite a bit on the road, and they need to be properly recalibrated properly all the time. If an officer doesn’t get the calibration right or forgets to correct a setting, that can lead to inaccurate results.
- Poor timing of the test itself: The blood alcohol content reading you get right after you take a shot, for example, could be artificially higher simply because there’s still so much residual alcohol in your mouth.
- Medical conditions: Undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetics and people with gastrointestinal reflux or heartburn can all skew the results of a breath test simply because their bodies are putting more natural ethanol into their system.
- Environmental factors: Are you a painter? Do you work as a nail tech or a cleaner? If so, your clothes may be soaked in chemical fumes by the end of the day, and that can actually contaminate your breath sample and lead to a higher reading.
Sometimes, you just can’t believe your eyes. If you think your Breathalyzer test was wrong, find out more about how that could play into your defense.