Can a Breathalyzer Produce a False Positive Result?
The accuracy of breathalyzers often comes under question. Can a breathalyzer produce a false positive? Can you challenge the results of a breathalyzer test in Arizona? The answers to both of these questions are “yes.”
Common Causes of False Positives
The aim of the breathalyzer machine is to estimate the blood alcohol content (BAC) on the basis of examining a breath sample. Because a blood sample is not taken, the breathalyzer cannot be expected to produce 100 percent accurate results.
There have been multiple examples of false positives in Arizona and other parts of the US. Some of the most common causes of a false positive include:
- Acetone in the breath caused by hypoglycemia
- Using mouthwash shortly before going out for a ride
- The use of cough drops and mints
- The use of certain medications (usually, products for topical application inside the mouth needed for the treatment of inflammation, canker sores and toothaches), asthma inhalers, etc.
- Poor calibration of the breathalyzer
- Inexperience of the operator responsible for administering the test
Keep in mind that even a blood test can result in a false positive, regardless of the fact this happens less often. Thus, as a citizen, you have the right to challenge the test and the potential DUI conviction that will stem from it.
Challenging a False Positive
While you have the right to challenge the results of a breathalyzer test administered in Arizona, the process could be long and difficult. You will definitely need skilled legal help from an attorney who has a lot of experience with DUI cases.
Evidence can be challenged quite successfully whenever a person is being convicted for a first DUI or if the individual is underage.
An attorney can challenge the evidence on the basis of the breathalyzer’s calibration or the manner in which the test was administered. The environment, even the ambient temperature, has the potential to alter breathalyzer test results. Procedural errors can easily contribute to a false positive.
The attorney could also challenge the test results on the basis of external factors or a medical condition that may have contributed to a false positive.
If the court finds out that a procedural violation has occurred or that a defendant has not been informed of their constitutional rights, the evidence may be dismissed and the DUI conviction will be dropped. This is why you have to act fast if you believe that a breathalyzer has produced a false positive.
Other Possible Defense Strategies
Challenging the results of the breath test is not the only thing that a lawyer can do for a client who faces DUI charges. Other defense strategies are also possible and these focus predominantly on procedural errors.
Lack of probable cause for getting pulled over is one of the possibilities.
Whenever a DUI checkpoint is set up, certain procedures will also have to be followed. Police officers, for example, cannot make random stops. Rather, they should come up with a methodology like pulling every fourth car over.
If you’re being taken into custody after a DUI conviction, you will have to be read your Miranda Rights. If a police officer fails to inform a detained driver of their rights prior to questioning, the defendant’s lawyers will have a reason to challenge the potential conviction.
So, can a breathalyzer produce a false positive? Yes. DUI evidence isn’t concrete and absolute. If you know that you haven’t been consuming alcohol and you still get a positive test, you will have to challenge the procedure. A lot can go wrong with a breathalyzer test – an indirect way to assess blood alcohol content. The quality of the equipment, the experience of the operator and external factors will all play a role. The burden of proof falls on the prosecutor and if an attorney can challenge the evidence successfully, it’s likely for the charges to get dropped.