Breathalyzer devices, which are designed to measure someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC), are widely used by law enforcement officers to gather evidence when someone is accused of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI).
Does that mean that you’re completely out of luck and without a defense if you blow at or above the legal limit? Not at all. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Breathalyzers aren’t always accurate
The breathalyzer devices used by law enforcement are pretty sophisticated, but they’re still just machines. They’re not immune to any of the problems that can make any machine malfunction. Things like the temperature outside, calibration problems and damage to the device can all negatively impact a device’s precision. So can an officer’s relative lack of training or skill while using the device when compared to others.
Breathalyzers can detect alcohol from multiple sources
Breathalyzers are supposed to measure the alcohol content in your lungs, which is why you’re told to breathe deep and long into the device when you’re tested. However, the machinery can’t distinguish between alcohol content from the lungs and alcohol content from your mouth. If you’ve recently used mouthwash with alcohol in it, for example, that can skew the results higher.
Certain medical conditions and diets can also create ketones, which are generally indistinguishable to the breathalyzer from the kind of alcohol you drink. If you’re a poorly controlled diabetic (or undiagnosed) or you follow the Keto diet, you may read “drunk” on a device when you’re not.
Breathalyzers measure intoxication, not impairment
Regardless of what a breathalyzer device may say, everybody can have a different tolerance level when it comes to alcohol. If you weren’t actually showing signs of impairment when the officer demanded a breath test, the officer may have lacked enough probable cause to subject you to the test in the first place.
If you’ve been charged with drunk driving after a breath test said your blood alcohol content was too high, it’s in your best interest to explore all the legal options at your disposal. A favorable outcome to your case may not be as unreachable as you may think. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to clarify your situation accordingly.