What happens if you blow more than the legal limit on a roadside breathalyzer test? Even if you're certain you really weren't drunk and weren't driving erratically, failing a breathalyzer can make you feel like the evidence against you is overwhelming and you should just give up and ask the judge for mercy.
Don't you believe it. Breathalyzer tests are not the ironclad pieces of evidence that many people think they are. Here are a number of things that can cause a breathalyzer to give an inaccurate read:
1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Stomach acid problems can cause the vapors from alcohol to remain in a sufferer's esophagus and mouth longer than the actual effects of the alcohol in their system. That may cause an artificially high read on a breathalyzer if you had a drink or two with dinner even if you aren't really intoxicated. Additionally, stress causes disorders like GERD to go into overdrive -- and you're likely to be feeling some anxiety if you're suddenly pulled over and confronted with a drunk driving accusation.
Breathalyzers have to be calibrated correctly in order to give an accurate reading. However, calibration isn't a one-time event. Those machines need to be periodically tested and recalibrated to keep giving accurate results. Dust, dirt, and even rough handling causes the machines to lose their accuracy. Miscalibration is a common challenge raised in DUI cases -- and for good reason. There have even been allegations of police purposefully miscalibrating their breathalyzers to ensure convictions. In New Jersey, for example, a class action suit alleges that police purposefully ignored the procedural safeguards necessary to obtain good results.
3. Poor Training
Breathalyzers are supposedly easy to use, but they still require training. There are rules about how a breathalyzer is supposed to be used. Generally speaking, officers are supposed to observe you for fifteen minutes or longer to make sure that nothing like a hiccup, burp, vomiting, or mouthwash could potentially alter the chemical composition of your breath and make the test artificially higher.
Your diet can actually cause your body to automatically produce isopropyl alcohol, which breathalyzers can't distinguish from the type of alcohol that people drink. If you're diabetic, for example, a temporary decrease in your blood sugar levels can cause ketones to enter your breath and produce an inflated score on a breathalyzer. However, you don't need to be diabetic for that to happen; Atkins-style, low-carb diets do the exact same thing!
Never accept a breathalyzer's reading as accurate if you think it isn't. Judges are gradually becoming wise to the problems with these machines. One judge in Ohio recently declared that the results given by one type of breathalyzer are "not scientifically reliable." If you're willing to take the issue to court, a DUI attorney can help.