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How accurate are breathalyzer tests?

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2020 | Criminal Law |

Every year, millions of Americans face intoxicated driving charges. Often, law enforcement officers look for drivers that are swerving, braking erratically, tailgating, intermittently varying speed, or exhibiting other unconventional driving behavior.

If you have had one or more alcoholic beverages and get pulled over by a law enforcement officer, whether you were driving erratically or not, you could be subject to a breathalyzer test.

Do law enforcement officials rely on these tests?

Yes, officers do rely on breath tests. When law enforcement suspects a driver is driving under the influence of alcohol, they request a breath test. If the results of the test show the person has a blood alcohol concentration higher than .08, the driver is subject to arrest.

Although breathalyzers are relied on to be extremely accurate, precise to the third decimal place, they are not. Breath tests produce incorrect results far too often.

Why do these devices produce inaccurate results?

The breathalyzer machines are sensitive. There are numerous factors that could lead to inaccurate results, some of which include:

  • The officer does not properly calibrate the device
  • The breathalyzer has not been adequately maintained
  • There are programming mistakes within the machine’s software

To reiterate, the machines are not reliable, yet virtually every police department in America uses breathalyzers to identify intoxicated drivers; this creates a problem.

In fact, in just one year, more than 30,000 breathalyzer tests were discarded in New Jersey and Massachusetts due to testing errors and oversight.

What are the penalties if convicted of DWI?

If you find yourself in a position where a law enforcement officer requests you take a breath test, you may choose to comply. You should be aware that the breathalyzer could produce faulty results, and you could face DWI charges.

The possible penalties for a DWI charge in New York include the loss of driving privileges, fines, and jail time. For a first-time DWI conviction, you are subject to six-month driver’s license suspension, up to a one-year jail sentence, and a minimum of $500 to $1,000 in fines.

No matter the circumstances that lead to your arrest, you will want to rely on expert legal counsel to represent your interest and attain the best possible outcome.