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How accurate are Breathalyzer tests?

Breath analysis tests are a tool law enforcement uses to figure out whether a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit of .08%. While many courts accept Breathalyzer readings as proof that a person was driving drunk, evidence suggests the device can often be inaccurate.

Numerous studies conclude that portable Breathalyzers have a margin of error of roughly .015% and can falsely show a driver as being over the legal limit. An inaccurate test can subject a New York driver accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI) to hundreds, and potentially, thousands of dollars in fines, jail time, driving restrictions, increased insurance premiums and other costs.

Flaws are often found in Breathalyzer readings

There are many instances where inflated readings result for drivers pulled over and asked to take a breath test. These include:

  • A person who sipped alcohol within 15 minutes of taking the test
  • People with gastrointestinal reflux
  • Individuals with diabetes

Potential challenges to Breathalyzer results

Breathalyzer results are key evidence in drunk driving cases, but there are ways to challenge results successfully. Here are possible ways to defeat Breathalyzer evidence:

  • Breathalyzers are not reliable: Many examples illustrate devices registering extreme BAC levels, such as .467% in the case of an Iowa man
  • Breathalyzer device was improperly calibrated: An officer must testify the instrument was working correctly at the time of an arrest
  • Officer lacked the proper training: If the officer’s training is insufficient, his testimony may be considered unreliable
  • The test was an illegal search: Police must have probable cause to pull a driver over, such as the driver was weaving or breaking traffic laws
  • The testing officer doesn’t testify: The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to cross-examine the officer who performed the test

Know your rights if accused of DWI

While no one should believe it’s appropriate to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights. You have the right to refuse Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, but you also need to know the likely consequences for refusing those tests.

Contacting an experienced DWI attorney here in New York will help you understand the charges as well as the potential legal defenses that could lead to charges being dropped or reduced penalties.

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