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Are Breathalyzer Tests Accurate?

Posted on : October 2, 2016, By:  Brian Kelley
Mississippi DUI Attorney

If you are pulled over and the law enforcement officer suspects you are drinking and driving, he will likely administer a breathalyzer test. If the results are over 0.08%, you will likely be arrested and charged with a DUI. However, breathalyzer tests are shockingly inaccurate. It’s surprising that they continue to be the “gold standard” of determining intoxication. Here’s what you need to know about breathalyzer tests, and what you can do if you are arrested for drunk driving in Mississippi.

A 20% Margin of Error

Breathalyzer tests are portable and convenient. Blood tests are more accurate, but they take more time and money to perform. However, even properly calibrated breathalyzer tests have up to a 20% margin of error. This means that if your BAC registered as 0.08% and you were arrested, it could have been lower than that and the breathalyzer was wrong. Of course, it could work the other way — if you blow a 0.08%, the true reading could be higher.

Proper Calibration

Breathalyzer equipment requires regular maintenance and calibration to ensure its accuracy. When a law enforcement officer fails to keep their equipment maintained according to police policy, the margin of error goes up. If you didn’t drink a drop of alcohol and blew into a breathalyzer that hadn’t been properly calibrated, you could register as over the legal limit of alcohol — leading to a false arrest.

Proper Test Administration and Medical Conditions

Police officers have many regulations that they must follow when giving a breathalyzer test. The subject cannot eat or drink anything for a specific period of time before being given the test (and they must be monitored by the officer during this time). Additionally, medical conditions like acid reflux can register as alcohol on a breathalyzer.

When to Get an Attorney Involved

Contact an experienced attorney when you are given a breathalyzer test and arrested for a DUI. An attorney understands how to challenge unreliable breathalyzer test results and potentially have the evidence omitted from court. Call the Law Office of J. Brian Kelley to learn more about how to fight a Mississippi DUI charge by calling (208) 735-0030 for a consultation.


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