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Inaccurate Breathalyzer Tests- The Facts

Jun 20, 2008
If you happen to be pulled over for a DUI, chances are you'll be asked to take a Breathalyzer test. There have been many studies that have shown them to be innacurate, regardless if you refuse the test in many states you could have your license suspended. Given the fairly inaccurate results, and the incredibly negative consequences of being convicted of false DUI it would seem there should be a greater public awareness of these issues.

Breathalyzers do not measure alcohol concentration directly, as does a blood test. Rather, they test for alcohol levels indirectly, by analyzing the chemical components in the breath of a suspected drunk-driver.

The problem is, because of this indirect method is that at times the machines don't properly measure the concentration. What the machines typically do is measure the ethyl compounds in the mouth under the assumption that these compounds are alcohol. Where errors occur is when chemicals that resemble the structure of ethyl alcohol, get registered as an alcohol residue.

There have been cases of people who have absorbed the fumes of paints or gasoline, such as painting a room over a day, and gotten a false positive. There have also been studies that have shown that the the yeast in bread and smoke from cigarrettes are more likely to exaggerate results.

Some studies have shown that diabetics have triggered false positives because of their acetone levels which is a result of their low blood sugar. Dieters and fasters have faced similar results. Some of these problems have been alleviated because of newer models of the breathalyzers, but no machine yet has proven failsafe.

Another potential issue with breathalyzer tests is the timing of the test. If you test a driver too early, you can get a false result. Because of the time needed to absorb alcohol it takes a while for the body to absorb the alcohol completely. The results can be artificially high based upon the higher levels of alcohol in the arterial blood that is measured by the breathalyzer.

The lungs use the arterial blood, and that is what shows up on the breathalyzer test. Because of this, the levels of alcohol might show up in a breathalyzer and yet the more accurate blood test will show much lower levels, because of the nature of how alcohol is absorbed.

Being convicted of a DUI can be a devastating life event. It's important to know that the breathalyzer isn't perfect, and if at all possible if you believe the results to be false ask for a more accurate blood test.

A qualified DUI attorney can help someone determine whether or not their breathalyzer results are accurate and were obtained in a legal manner. Important decisions rest on the results of such tests, so it is equally as important to question their validity and accuracy.
About the Author
If you've been accused of a dui in the Jacksonville area, contact Lee Lockett a Jacksonville Florida DUI Attorney specializing in Jacksonville Criminal Defense and DUI.
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