3 Factors That Could Lead to a False Breathalyzer Reading

How might my diabetes influence a breathalyzer result?

If you are stopped on suspicion of a DUI in Georgia, you will be asked to perform a breathalyzer test.  Refusal to perform the breathalyzer test could result in suspension of your driver’s license, so many drivers will comply.  Breathalyzer tests are small devices used to estimate a driver’s blood alcohol content to assess whether it exceeds the legal limit of .08.  The breathalyzer has been around for some time, with the first prototype version known as the “drunkometer” used in 1931.  Many officers and prosecutors regard the breathalyzer as implicitly trustworthy, but the truth is that several factors could lead to a false positive reading.  As such, anyone arrested for a DUI in Georgia will want to scrutinize the breathalyzer results and potentially contest their validity.

1. Calibration of the Breathalyzer

Breathalyzers are complex machines that must be routinely calibrated.  Like any machine, without calibration, the results of the breathalyzer could be incorrect.  Calibration will involve checking the breathalyzer to be sure it is accurately detecting the level of alcohol.  Police departments are required to routinely calibrate their breathalyzers and make note of it.  However, mistakes can happen and tests could be overlooked.

2. Medical Conditions 

Breathalyzers are created to detect the presence of alcohol on a suspect’s breath, but alcohol can come in forms besides that found in an alcoholic beverage.  Alcohol can at times occur naturally within the body.  Certain medical conditions can cause patients to experience enzymes that may be detected by the breathalyzer as ethyl alcohol.  Such conditions include acid reflux and diabetes.  If you have a condition that could influence the breathalyzer test, notify officers as such before you perform the test.  Police officers may instead have you complete a blood test.  If you are tested, despite a condition, evidence of your condition could be used to challenge admission of the test results in court.


3. Only Performing One Test 

The detection of alcohol on one’s breath is not an exact science.  Some studies have shown that breathalyzer results can vary in accuracy as much as ten to 12 percent.  For this reason, officers should have a suspect perform multiple breathalyzer tests.  Just one measurement should not be deemed sufficient to prove that you are legally over the limit.  If you performed just one test, you could attempt to challenge its reliability and thus admissibility.

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Carter Pilgrim
Attorneys at Law


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Suwanee, GA 30024

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