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When are breath tests inaccurate?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2024 | DUI

Breath tests are a common way for officers to conveniently measure blood alcohol concentration. However, this method does not always provide accurate readings.

Several factors can contribute to these inaccuracies, potentially leading to erroneous charges for driving under the influence.

Problems with calibration

One reason why breath tests might not be accurate is because the testing equipment is not always calibrated properly. Much like how a person tunes a guitar to make sure it sounds right, breath tests need regular tuning to work correctly. If they are not tuned up often enough, they can give inaccurate readings.

Dietary influences

Believe it or not, what a person eats can impact the results of a breath test. Consuming certain foods or drinks, such as those containing yeast or sugar, can produce false positives by triggering the fermentation process in the body. This fermentation can generate alcohol-like substances in the breath, leading to false blood alcohol concentration readings.

Leftover mouthwash

If a person uses a mouthwash or breath freshener, it can make a breath test show a higher alcohol level. That is because some alcohol can stick around in an individual’s mouth even after they use these fresheners.

Environmental factors

How hot or humid it is can also throw off breath tests. Cold or hot weather can mess with how the testing gadget works, leading to wrong readings. High humidity can also change the chemicals in a person’s breath, making it seem like they are more intoxicated than they actually are.

Medical conditions

Some medical conditions can mess with breath test results. If a person has acid reflux, this health concern can make it look like they have been drinking, even if they were not. People with diabetes or on certain diets might breathe out a chemical called acetone, which can trick the test into thinking they drank alcohol.

Facing a false breath test can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and worried about what happens next. Officers need to take additional steps when testing for alcohol instead of relying on only one instrument.