Are Breathalyzers Always Right?

woman in car and police officer holding breathalyzer

Police officers evaluate a driver’s sobriety based on the results of a breathalyzer test, field sobriety test, or both. Field sobriety tests are highly criticized by many, but breath tests are typically regarded as accurate.

Can breath test results always be trusted?

How Does A Breathalyzer Work?

The breathalyzer was invented in 1954. The handy little device is able to measure the concentration of alcohol in one’s blood, or BAC. There are multiple types of breathalyzer devices. The most common type of breathalyzer measures the amount of ethanol in the individual’s breath. It does this by measuring a chemical reaction that takes place when the ethanol from the breath is exposed to water in the air. Other breathalyzers use fuel cell technology or infrared light to test the concentration of alcohol.

When taking a breath test, you blow into the mouthpiece until you hear a beep that signals you to stop (approximately four seconds). The device will then show your BAC result in less than one minute.

Factors That Can Influence BAC Results

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions may affect BAC results. For example, diabetics may develop a separate condition called ketoacidosis. An individual with ketoacidosis may get an inaccurate, high BAC result - essentially a ‘false positive.’ This can happen even if the individual didn’t have any alcohol that day.

Burping or Vomiting

The movement of air and other bodily fluids up through your mouth can skew how much ethanol is present and cause you to get a higher BAC score than what is accurate.
Law enforcement officers are aware of how these actions can affect BAC readings and should not administer a test until at least 20 minutes have passed since the belching or vomiting.

Mouth Alcohol

This factor is similar to burping or vomiting. An excess presence of alcohol in the mouth leads to a higher result than what truly reflects your BAC.
For example, if you have food in your teeth that has absorbed some alcohol, it will hold that alcohol in your mouth and can affect your BAC reading.

Device Errors

Like all technology, breathalyzers can fail. If the device is malfunctioning, not properly calibrated, or used improperly, it can lead to inaccurate results.

Creative Criminal Defense Solutions

People may feel like if they scored a .08% or higher on a breath test, it is impossible to defend against the charges. This is not the case. As you can see, there are many factors that could lead to an inaccurate BAC reading. At The Law Office of Justin Rosas, we can further investigate the circumstances of your breath test. Give us a call at (541) 933-5972 today to set up an initial consultation with our Medford criminal defense lawyers.