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Can Breathalyzer tests ever be wrong? 

You were sure you weren’t drunk when you left the party — but you got pulled over and failed a Breathalyzer test. Failing a Breathalyzer test at 0.8% or higher can have an immense impact on your life. You may lose your license and even other freedoms.

Could the Breathalyzer be wrong? Absolutely. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the equipment and processes involved in Breathalyzer tests. Police officers are required to adhere to specific testing requirements, so that final readings come back with accurate results. 

What requirements must Breathalyzers meet?

The most accurate Breathalyzer is a modified infrared spectrometer. These devices are utilized to determine blood alcohol concentration. The tool categorizes different compounds which all reflect infrared light in various ways. To read blood alcohol concentration sufficiently, the Breathalyzer must be calibrated to detect ethanol. 

Another common device is a fuel cell Breathalyzer. This tool uses chemical reactions to detect alcohol levels in the breath. These are typically used by officers in the field, whereas infrared testing is done at the police station. 

How can Breathalyzer test results be wrong?

The machinery in Breathalyzers can also pick up on other forms of alcohol in the human body, such as acetone or methanol — both of which can be produced naturally due to diet, illness and other factors. Each of these alcohol compounds can impact the results of a test and give off an inaccurate reading. 

For example, some mouthwash products contain alcohol. Therefore, a reading could be inaccurate if mouthwash has been used recently. However, the test should be able to distinguish between “mouth alcohol” and “blood alcohol.” 

Due to the potential of readings being inaccurate, it is vital that officers allow for more than one test to take place. The recommended waiting period between tests is typically 15 minutes — but that isn’t always done.

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the law relating to drunk driving charges and defenses. Doing so can help you to build a defense if you are pulled over and produce a failed reading that you’re certain is inaccurate. 

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