Are breath test results accurate?

If you have ever been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Missouri, you may have been asked to take breath test. Law officers often use roadside breath tests to determine whether you are driving under the influence of alcohol. The problem lies in the fact that breath test results are not always accurate, and in some cases, the false results may lead to a wrongful DUI charge.

The most accurate way to determine your blood alcohol level content is by taking a blood sample. This isn’t feasible on the side of the road, so officers administer breath tests. These machines are designed to determine your blood alcohol content level by measuring the amount of ethnyl alcohol in an exhaled breath sample. Yet, there are several factors that can influence this level and cause it to increase. According to the State University of New York at Potsdam, these factors include the following:

  •          The relative humidity and temperature of the air
  •          Pollution levels
  •          Inhaling fumes from gasoline, cigarette smoke and cleaning fluid
  •          Residual food, drink, vomit or blood in the mouth
  •          Body temperature and physical activity

Breath test devices that are not calibrated properly and/or law enforcement officers that fail to use the device correctly can also cause an error in the results. Studies from the university show that breath test results can differ by more than 15 percent from blood test results. These factors have led some states to exclude breath test results as a form of evidence admissible to the court.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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