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How accurate are Breathalyzer machines?

If Tennessee law enforcement officials pull you over for a suspected DUI, they likely will make you take a Breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol concentration. But are the results of these tests really all that accurate? ProctorCars.com reports that most of them have up to a 15% margin of error. This translates into up to 23% of accused driving under the influence defendants having been the victim of an inaccurate Breathalyzer.

Breathalyzer machines come in the following three types:

  1. Fuel-cell
  2. Infrared
  3. Color-Changing

The fuel-cell kind is the only type of Breathalyzer device that officers can use if they want to have their evidence admitted into court. The other two types produce even more inaccurate results.

Factors affecting Breathalyzer accuracy

Many factors can influence an inaccurately high Breathalyzer result, including the following:

  • You have a higher than normal body temperature.
  • You may have recently inhaled the chemical compounds found in paint remover, cleaning fluids, etc.
  • You may have recently ingested the chemical compounds found in vinegar and vinegar-based salad dressings.
  • You may have diabetes.
  • You may have recently used a mouthwash or a breath freshener.

All of these factors, plus many others, can result in a Breathalyzer recording a too-high BAC level.

Self-help apps

If you normally drink alcoholic beverages when you go to a restaurant, a ball game, or parties at your friends’ homes, you may wish to invest in a breath-checking device and/or app that works on and with your smartphone. That way you can check your own breath before getting behind the wheel. Several different brands exist, including the BACtrack manufactured by KHN Solutions, Inc., the Breathometer and Breeze manufactured by Breathometer, Inc., and the Alcohoot manufactured by Vertisense Inc.

Despite the known inaccuracies of professional Breathalyzer devices, challenging the evidence they produce can be difficult at best in a court of law. If you receive a DUI conviction, you face serious time in jail as well as a high fine and the possible suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. Obviously refusing to drink at all prior to driving represents your best course of action. If you cannot do that, at least invest in the technology that will allow you to monitor your own BAC.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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