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Why can breath tests give inaccurate readings?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | DUI

Breath tests are tools used to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s system. These tests estimate blood alcohol concentration by analyzing the breath.

However, breath tests can sometimes give inaccurate readings, which could influence whether a person gets a DUI or not. Several factors make them less reliable.

Mouthwashes and other substances

Many factors can affect the accuracy of breath tests when it comes to a DUI. One of the main factors is the presence of certain substances in the mouth. Mouthwash, breath fresheners and even some medications can contain alcohol. These substances may cause a higher reading than the actual blood alcohol level.

Device maintenance

The devices used for breath tests need regular calibration and maintenance. If an officer does not care for this device correctly, it can give incorrect readings.

Calibration ensures that the device measures accurately. Regular maintenance checks help keep the device in good working condition. Without these, the accuracy of the readings can decrease over time.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors could also play a role in the accuracy of breath tests. Extreme temperatures, humidity and even altitude can affect the results.

For instance, a very hot or cold environment can change the way the device reads the breath sample. High altitude could also influence the concentration of alcohol in the breath. These factors may lead to readings that do not accurately reflect the true blood alcohol concentration.

Human error

Human error is another significant factor. The person administering the test needs proper training. If they do not follow the correct procedure, it could skew the results and potentially lead to a driver facing fines and imprisonment.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can affect breath test results as well. Conditions like diabetes may produce chemicals in the breath that are similar to alcohol. Acid reflux can also affect the results. These conditions could cause false positives, leading to inaccurate readings.

Breath tests are not the only tool an officer should rely on. Understanding these factors can help in interpreting breath test results more accurately when a person faces a DUI and keeping a person’s peace of mind.