Potential For Inaccurate Breath Test Results

In my last post I discussed the less stringent requirements for breath testing for federal DUI cases compared to California. California has stricter requirements for collecting breath test data compared to federal guidelines. Stricter rules make it harder for defense lawyers to call evidence validity into question. On the other hand a case can be dismissed quickly when the prosecution relies on faulty evidence collection.

15 Minute Observation Rule

Breathalyzers test for the amount of alcohol in a suspect’s breath. The amount detected is not necessarily related to the amount of alcohol in the suspect’s blood. Alcohol in the mouth can cause a breathalyzer to give an elevated reading. In some tests, the reported amount of alcohol exceeded fatal levels. Clearly those results would be considered unreliable in court. To counter faulty reading like this California requires police to closely observe the suspect for 15 minutes prior to a breath test. Any belching, hiccuping or vomiting could skew the test, so police are required to wait at least another 15 minutes after the observed burp.

Food, Drink or Breath Fresheners and Breathalyzer Results

Police also observe the suspect to prevent him (or her) from eating or drinking anything. Tests performed shortly after the use of alcohol based breath fresheners have shown massively elevated readings. Those readings typically return to nearly normal levels within 15 minutes.

Low-carb Dieting, Diabetes, and Breathalyzer Tests

According to WebMD, “Ketones are substances that are made when the body breaks down fat for energy.” Low carb diets, diabetes, hypoglycemia and other medical or dietary conditions can cause the body to give off ketones in the breath. Breathalyzers can be confused by the presence of ketones and can give incorrectly high results. This can happen even when the suspect has not consumed any alcohol.

Other Causes of Elevated Breathalyzer Readings

A few other circumstances are believed to cause elevated readings. Kissing an intoxicated person shortly before a breath test could cause a higher than accurate reading. Of course a suspect in observation would be prevented from kissing other people before a test. Pockets in the gums due to gum disease or oral surgery could allow alcohol to pool and dissipate slowly. Gum disease can also cause bleeding. If blood is blown into the breathalyzer it could cause a higher reading. The exact effects of these circumstances are mostly speculation, however they could be used to put evidence into question.

Hire A DUI Specialist Attorney

It is important to hire a DUI specialist attorney to defend you from DUI charges. Not all attorneys will be aware of current toxicology science. Some equipment may have special handling instructions that are not always followed. Even some specific police officers may not be performing tests properly. A specialist is constantly studying the latest science, and is keeping an eye out for sloppy police procedure. Hire the right person for the right job. Call our office and set up a consultation. Only rely on the best.

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