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The Breathalyzer Got it Wrong!

Posted by Terry A. Wapner | Sep 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

The invention of the portable roadside breathalyzer made it possible to quickly analyze the BAC of drivers.  Breathalyzer devices look scientific and accurate—but all too often, looks can be deceiving.

For a machine that can make a big difference to the lives of drivers, most people don't have any idea how a breathalyzer really works.  The biggest shock to some people: Roadside Breathalyzers don't just measure ethyl alcohol.

That's right—there are other things being measured as well, and they can sometimes make a real difference.  Any molecule that is somewhat similar to alcohol will be counted as more alcohol.  This means that environmental substances can contribute to a faulty high BAC reading.

According to Dr. David Hanson at SUNY-Potsdam, investigators have found that eating bread products can yield a BAC level as high as .05% in people who have consumed no alcohol.  Painting a room, even with a protective face mask, can raise the BAC above .07% on some infared breathalyzer machines, and using solvents or contact cements can give BAC levels of up to .12%--well over the legal limit for DUI.

A change in body temperature can also significantly affect how the BAC reads your alcohol levels.  Every degree of body temperature above the norm of 98.6 degrees will result in your BAC looking 8.6 percent higher than it really is.

Untreated or poorly treated diabetics, as well as people on certain high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, can also end up with inaccurate high BAC readings.  That is because their bodies may have entered a state called ketoacidosis, in which acetone—detected as identical to alcohol in breathalyzers—is produced by the body in excessive quantities.

Breathalyzers also require periodic re-calibration in order to continue giving accurate readings. Your DUI attorney may be able to prove that a breathalyzer in your case had compromised accuracy because of a lack of recent calibration.

If you have been arrested for DUI and gave breath test with a hand-held machine, you should contact DUI Lawyer Terry Wapner to discuss your case.  You may have defenses that will reduce your breath result.

About the Author

Terry A. Wapner

Terry A. Wapner confines his practice to the defense of persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and related crimes.


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