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Evaluating the reliability of breath test devices

Drivers who are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Arizona, may be asked to submit to a breath test. Law enforcement officers use roadside breath tests to determine whether motorists are driving over the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Those who are guilty of this offense may face a drunk driving charge and may be forced to deal with the repercussions of a DUI. Yet studies show that some breath test devices give inaccurate results, which could lead to wrongful DUI charges and convictions.

The study published by the State University of New York at Potsdam, showed that breath test results obtained by breath test devices may vary by up to 15 percent from the BAC results obtained from an actual blood test. In fact, one out of four drivers tested may have inflated BAC results.

There are many factors that may contribute to these inaccuracies, including the following:

  • Pollution
  • Gas fumes and cigarette smoke
  • Relatively humidity and temperature of the air
  • Residual food, drink, blood or vomit in the mouth
  • Electrical interference from police radios and cellphones

Problems may occur if the breath test device has not been calibrated properly or if the officer using the device is not trained correctly. In some cases, breath test results are not admissible as evidence in court; however, they may be used to detain the motorist and bring them in for further testing. Drivers may be given an actual blood test, in which the results may be used as evidence in court.

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