Challenging the Breathalyzer

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Many individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence often suffer from the same misconception: they think that if they submitted to a breath test, and the results demonstrated they were over the legal limit, there is "no point" in mounting a DUI defense. They think that a breathalyzer result is definitive proof of their guilt and it would be futile to attempt to challenge this machine. This is absolutely incorrect. An arrest for DUI is not a conviction, even if breathalyzer results put you over the legal limit.

Hall County DUI Breath Tests

Law enforcement officials who stop an individual they suspect may be driving under the influence will perform various tests to determine if a DUI arrest is warranted, as well as performing tests subsequent to an arrest to demonstrate that the arrest was warranted. These can include field sobriety tests, urine tests, blood tests, and, perhaps the most well known: a breath test.

Georgia law enforcement officers use the Intoxilyzer 9000 as part of DUI investigations. This machine uses an infrared spectroscopic technique to identify and quantify alcohol in the breath. The threshold level for a DUI arrest based on a BAC reading for the majority of drivers in Georgia is .08 (referred to as "the legal limit"). For drivers who are under the age of 21, the limit is .02. Individuals who drive a commercial vehicle with a CDL are subject to a lower limit of .04.

Breath test machines were designed and tested to be used on healthy individuals under perfect environmental conditions by administrators who appropriately calibrated and used the machine. Are these the conditions of the everyday DUI stop in Gainesville? Not even close.

Challenging the Breathalyzer

There are so many potential extenuating factors which can come into play during a breath test that to avoid challenging the results is not a sound legal defense strategy. Some of the complications which can arise related to a breath test include, but are no means limited to:

Failure to Follow Protocol During DUI Investigation

No matter how well-designed or thoroughly-tested any breathalyzer machine might be, the simple fact that the machine does not operate in a vacuum and must be administered by a law enforcement officer opens up the possibility of human error. Georgia officers must ensure that a certain amount of time has passed between when an individual has consumed his or her last alcoholic beverage and when a breath test is administered. Failure to adhere to this time period may result in an artificially inflated BAC reading due to residual alcohol on the breath. Additionally, officers should request that the individual dispose of gum, and note all medications he or she is currently taking. Again, failure to to so can render a BAC reading unreliable.

In addition to taking these precautions in order to ensure an accurate reading, officers must follow other protocol designed to safeguard the constitutional rights of drivers who have been stopped/arrested. An officer must inform you of your rights before administering chemical tests. Failure to do so could result in the results of your breath test being deemed inadmissible in a criminal proceeding.

Improper Calibration of a Breathalyzer

A breathalyzer must be calibrated in order to ensure that the machine is providing accurate results. The company that manufactures the Intoxilyzer 9000 (CMI) states that "To ensure the highest level of accuracy with your breath alcohol testers, regular checks and calibrations need to be performed using a NIST traceable dry gas or wet bath standard approved for use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)."

Different states set different regulations in terms of how often a breathalyzer must be calibrated. If law enforcement officials failed to calibrate the machine used during your DUI test according to the rules put forth by the state of Georgia, the results can be subject to challenge on the grounds that they may be inaccurate due to improper calibration.

Medical Conditions Result in Inaccurate BAC Reading

There are certain medical conditions which can cause an individual to have a false blood alcohol result using a breathalyzer machine. The most common of these is diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes (over 9% of the population of the United States). Of these 30 million, the CDC estimates that about 7 million are currently suffering from undiagnosed diabetes. Individuals who suffer from diabetes can have higher-than-normal levels of acetone in their breath as a byproduct of the body's inability to regulate insulin naturally. Acetone can be falsely identified as ethanol (ethyl alcohol) in a breathalyzer test. This can cause the machine to report a false positive.

There can be other reasons why an individual may have levels of acetone in their breath. Those who follow a strict 'ketogenic' or 'keto' diet (one which focuses on very low carbohydrate intake, with a higher fat/protein intake) typically have the goal of reaching ketosis. Ketosis is a state in which the body burns fat for energy. During this state, the body produce ketones, which are the result of the breakdown of fats in the liver. Ketones create isopropyl alcohol, which turns into acetone, and can again result in artificially inflated BAC readings.

In addition to diabetes and low-carb diets, there are other medical conditions, such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) which can result in an artificially inflated BAC. In addition, even some normal bodily functions, such as burping and vomiting can alter your BAC results. This is especially critical for drivers under the age of 21 and those who were operating a vehicle using a Commercial Driving License (CDL). With a lowered BAC threshold of .02 and .04 respectively, these medical conditions could have the potential to make even a sober driver appear intoxicated to the machine.

Gainesville DUI Representation

Again, these are only some of the ways that the results of a breath test can be challenged. Never, ever assume that you "failed" a breath test and that your chances to walk away from your arrest without a DUI conviction are shot. A skilled, experienced legal defense team will not hesitate to pursue every possible potential defense. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact our legal team immediately.

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