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Breathalyzer tests are not always reliable

Motorists in New York who get pulled over on the suspicion of drunk driving will probably be offered field sobriety tests and a portal breath test. If these tests show a need for further testing, the driver will be asked to submit to a supposedly more reliable test, often referred to by the brand name Breathalyzer, at a local police station.

If the Breathalyzer shows a person has at least .08 blood alcohol content, or BAC, then he or she will likely face an arrest and drunk driving charges. Because most courts consider these tests reliable, the person may think that a conviction is a predetermined outcome.

The problem is that recent investigative reporting by a major New York newspaper has confirmed what DUI defense attorneys have known for a long time. Specifically, Breathalyzer tests are not nearly as reliable as their reputation suggests, especially when local police officers do not calibrate or use them properly. The end result can be that innocent people wind up suffering the consequences of drunk driving convictions they should not have received.

The good news is that the results of a Breathalyzer test can be challenged in court. In some cases, for instance, it may be possible to exclude the results. For example, if law enforcement officers did not use the machine correctly or did not properly calibrate and maintain the equipment, then the results of the test might be deemed inadmissible.

Likewise, even those who manufacture these machines acknowledge that they are not sure-fire proof of a person's guilt. Whether someone is legally drunk is really a question that can only be answered by looking at all the circumstances. Those facing drunk driving allegations should take the time to fully asses their situation by exploring their defense options.

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