A breathalyzer is a type of test that detects the level of alcohol in your breath. When you blow into the test device, it searches for particles of alcohol. Based on the concentration of the alcohol particles, it provides the person administering the test with your BAC, or blood alcohol concentration.
The standard breathalyzer test is highly reliable when it comes to detecting the presence of alcohol in the average test sample as well as a person’s BAC. However, some factors can throw off the BAC reading, either providing a number that is too high or too low than what your actual BAC is.
When officers have you blow into the device to find out your BAC, they may inadvertently have you facing into the wind. The wind alone can manipulate your breath sample and cause your BAC reading to be lower than what it actually is.
At the same time, your BAC reading could be much higher than what it actually is if you blow into the device while standing or sitting in a closed off room. The lack of ventilation could cause the concentration of the particles to be greater than need be, making it appear that you are highly inebriated.
If you disagree with your BAC reading, you can have a DUI attorney contest it for you. You could have your BAC level tested through other means like giving a blood or urine sample to the police.
What Causes Your BAC to Go Over the Legal Breathalyzer Limit?
Failing a breathalyzer test can come as a complete surprise to you. You may think that you only consumed a small amount of alcohol, only to find that your BAC was so high that you completely failed a breathalyzer test. What made your BAC go over the legal breathalyzer limit anyway? You can prepare for a breathalyzer test in the future by knowing how your BAC level is calculated.
Most states use a standard breathalyzer chart that indicates at what levels a person’s BAC could be too high and at what level it would be legally safe to drive a car. The legally allowed BAC number used by most states is 0.08 although in some states this number could be lower.
Regardless, the chart considers how much you weigh, what gender you are, and how much alcohol you drink in the time before you are given the test. The chart categorizes each BAC on two primary factors of weight and the total number of drinks you have had. Based on these two primary criteria as well as your gender, it provides you with a BAC range that goes up as you consume more alcohol.
More about Breathalyzer Accuracy
You might wonder if a breathalyzer is an accurate way to test for BAC or if it can give skewed results after you have consumed alcohol. The test devices used today are viewed as highly accurate and more than capable of giving reliable BAC test results. In some instances, the result of your BAC test can be just as accurate as if you were to give a urine or blood sample.
Even so, any good alcohol defense attorney can argue that this test can be skewed and give inaccurate BAC readings especially if the officer who gave the test did not know what he or she is doing. Some states do not provide extensive training for administering these BAC alcohol field sobriety tests. The test results could be compromised because the officer did not really know how to give the test in the first place.
Nonetheless, the typical test result for your BAC could be allowed in court as evidence that you drank too much alcohol before driving. You could be sentenced to alcohol rehabilitation counseling or be made to pay a fine for your alcohol offense. If you are someone who is in court often because of being over the legal BAC limit, you could even be sentenced to a stint in jail.
The entire basis of any legal punishment you face will depend on how accurate you and your attorney believe the test results to be and if you think it gave a good blood alcohol content reading. If you feel that the test was not accurate, you have the right to contest it in court and provide evidence that the blood alcohol content charges against you should be dismissed.
Complying with a Police Breathalyzer Test
You do not have to agree to take a field sobriety test if you believe you have been wrongfully detained. Nonetheless, when you want to avoid being arrested and possibly being forced to give a urine or blood sample to test your BAC, you may choose to comply with the police breathalyzer test. Most police officers make the tests fast and simple with which to comply. You should follow the officer’s instructions if you have been pulled over on suspicion of driving after drinking alcohol.
The device will test for alcohol particles in your breath and then give a BAC reading to the police. Before you blow into the device, you should spit out your gum or put out your cigarette. Candy particles and tobacco smoke can skew your BAC reading and cause the device to say you drank more alcohol than you actually consumed.
Likewise, you should blow until the device emits a signal saying it has enough air to test. Most devices give BAC results in a matter of seconds. It can tell the officer if your blood alcohol reading is under the legal limit or if you are too drunk to drive.
Understanding Breathalyzer Calibration
The accuracy of the BAC reading given by a breathalyzer depends greatly on how well the device is calibrated. Calibration of a breathalyzer is simply a process of making sure the device interprets the BAC of a manufacturing sample.
For example, a breathalyzer that is calibrated to read an 0.08 BAC will have 0.08 alcohol concentrated air blown into it while it is being tested. If it gives a reading of 0.08 in response, it is calibrated correctly.
Most breathalyzers come pre-calibrated straight from the factory so you do not have to worry about calibrating it yourself after you buy it. It should continue to give accurate readings for up to 12 months as long as you do not misuse it.
After 12 months, you are encouraged to send it back to the manufacturer to have it recalibrated for accuracy. You should send it back sooner if it starts to malfunction such as fail to give accurate readings or failing to read breath samples at all.
Many manufacturers will perform calibration services for their products for a minimal fee. They also may perform the calibration service at no cost if the device is under warranty or if it suffers from a manufacturing defect.