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How accurate are alcohol breath tests?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2023 | DUI |

Failing a chemical breath test can be a shock to someone who truly believes that they didn’t have too much to drink. Impaired driving charges can put someone in jail and/or cost them their driver’s license if they get convicted or plead guilty. Despite these risks, a sizable percentage of those accused of impairment at the wheel plead guilty because they believe they have no viable alternative option.

Is it possible to raise questions about the accuracy of chemical breath test results during a criminal trial for impaired driving?

Breath testing is highly unreliable

When examining how authoritative different evidence is for the purpose of criminal prosecution, there are many factors to consider. The margin of error is an important consideration. Specifically, tests that have a higher margin of error are more likely to return inaccurate results.

Researchers have made it quite clear that chemical breath testing is not as reliable as blood testing or the purpose of establishing alcohol impairment. When comparing the two methods, peer-reviewed and widely-accepted research shows that breath testing has a margin of error that is over 50%. In other words, breath test results can be far different from the actual blood alcohol concentration (BAC) verified through blood testing.

Individuals who are not over the legal limit could end up arrested and convicted because of inaccurate test results. There are some courts that no longer allow prosecutors to solely rely on breath test results for drunk driving charges specifically because of how unreliable those tests can be.

Every defendant has options available

People sometimes despair of being able to fight criminal charges and enter guilty pleas despite knowing they did not break the law. When someone knows that the breast test results from their traffic stop were inaccurate because they showed they were over the legal limit and they had nothing to drink or only a single beverage earlier in the night, their attorney could potentially raise questions about the accuracy of the breath test results.

A compelling explanation could create the reasonable doubt someone requires to avoid a criminal conviction. Understanding the value of different types of evidence can help people more effectively respond to pending criminal charges.