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The dreaded alcohol breath test -- are the results reliable?

Anyone who pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in the state of New York knows just how anxiety inducing it is to be asked to submit to sobriety testing. Most people do participate because they feel that they have to, though you can refuse if you would rather not participate. There are consequences for refusing an alcohol breath test, but there may be consequences for submitting to one as well.

Consequences aside, one thing everyone wants to know is whether breath tests results reliable. Makers of the devices and even the Department of Transportation say that they are, but many experts agree that they are not without fault.

Machine error

One thing that no one talks about too frequently is that breath test devices can fail. This can happen if:

  • Maintenance is ignored
  • Calibration is not completed properly
  • Batteries need replacing
  • A software issue exists

There are several breath test devices on the market. Each has its own set of issues that can affect your test results.

Substances that can affect the breath test

Several other things may affect your test results. For starters, if you had a drink within 15 minutes of supplying a breath sample, traces of alcohol may still be in your mouth and can cause the device to give a high BAC readout. Then, there are substances other than alcohol that may contain alcohol, which if used shortly before a BAC test could result in an inaccurate reading, such as:

  • Mouthwash
  • Cold medicine
  • Smoking products
  • Certain prescription drugs

If you failed a breath test and know you used one of these substances before your test, that information would be good for your legal counsel to know.

Other things to consider

A few other things that might affect your BAC results are your gender, your weight, how much you've had to eat and how many drinks -- if any -- you had. A smaller woman who drinks two beers without eating anything is going to have a higher BAC readout that an average size male who drinks the same amount and also fails to eat something.

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge because you failed an alcohol breath test, a conviction is not necessarily guaranteed. It may be possible to fight the test results if there is any evidence that supports a claim that the results may not be reliable.

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