Modern medical science would probably seem like magic to people who lived 100 years ago. The idea that police officers can tell with a simple breath test whether someone has had too much to drink is incredible when you stop to think about it.
While such testing is quite impressive, it is far from perfect. The average person likely puts more faith in chemical breath testing and the reliability of the results than they should. The truth is that breath testing fails frequently.
Sometimes, chemical breath tests tell a police officer that someone is legally drunk and therefore subject to arrest when they continue to maintain that they have not had anything to drink or only enjoyed a single beer. What are some of the reasons that breast test results may not be as accurate as people expect?
- The diet or health of the person performing the test
Most chemical breath tests look for an entire family of chemical compounds, which means that numerous substances other than alcohol could cause a false positive on the test. Certain prescription medications might trigger a false positive. Using mouthwash shortly before a traffic stop might also lead to unreliable test results.
Health conditions and dietary practices might also influence the accuracy of breath test results. Paleo or keto diets, which people follow to burn fat and build muscle, can also leave the body in a state where someone will fail a breath test despite being perfectly sober.
- Improper device maintenance
Mistakes on the part of the organization that owns and maintains the breath test device can affect the accuracy of test results. Maybe the manufacturer released a crucial software update recently, but they never installed it and therefore cannot guarantee the accuracy of the results. Maybe it has been some time since the police department actually calibrated the breath test, and there are questions as to whether it could accurately analyze a chemical sample.
If there are issues with how the police department maintained the breath test or how the officer administered the test, then there may be questions regarding how accurate the results are. It can be difficult to make sense of your experience when a police officer arrests you on allegations of impaired driving but you know you should have passed the test.
Understanding why breath tests aren’t infallible sources of scientific evidence could help you fight back against pending drunk driving charges.