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Factors that may impact the accuracy of a breath test

If you have ever had a drink or two during a night out or at a sports event and have seen blue lights spinning in your rearview mirror, you know just how unnerving such an experience can be. If, after pulling your car over to the side of the road, authorities believe you may have consumed enough alcohol to exceed the legal limit, you can expect to be asked to take a breath test or a test used to determine your perceived level of impairment at the wheel.

Such tests are administered using a device called a breathalyzer, and while the results they produce are often accurate as long as the device is calibrated and administered correctly (which is not always the case), breathalyzers are not completely free from error. In fact, there are a number of factors that may lead the device to produce false results, and given how harsh the penalties for drinking and driving often are, it is important to understand what these factors are. They may include:

Electronic interference

Though it may sound odd, things like cellphone towers, radio signals and dispatch transmitters have the potential to affect your breath test results and make it appear as if your blood-alcohol level is higher than it actually is. Electronic interference may come from the law enforcement official's vehicle or other outside factors if you are tested right where you are pulled over. It may also come from radios or something else at the station, if that is where you undergo testing.

Smoking and certain bodily functions

Just as electronic interference can lead a breathalyzer to produce a false-positive reading, so, too, can smoking or certain bodily functions, such as burping or vomiting. Most authorities are trained and know that the presence of something like vomit or blood in your mouth can lead to inaccurate test results and they are therefore supposed to wait a certain amount of time if they see you vomit or belch before they can test you again.

Diabetes and other health conditions

If you are diabetic, it is wise to be particularly vigilant in double-checking your breath test results because diabetes also has the capacity to impact the results of the test. The breathalyzer may pick up on the presence of acetone in your breath, and this may lead authorities to believe you are intoxicated even though the acetone may be a byproduct of your diabetes.

If you question the results of your breath test, an attorney may be able to subpoena breathalyzer calibration or maintenance records from law enforcement to help argue your case.

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