If you have been arrested for DUI and think there's no point in challenging your arrest due to the fact that you "failed" your breathalyzer test, think again. The blood alcohol results obtained by breath test machines are not definitive proof of driving under the influence. On the contrary, like any machine, these devices are subject to malfunction, user error, and environmental factors which can result in an inaccurate or unreliable reading. Leaning on his 20 years of experience defending DUI cases, Roswell DUI attorney Richard Lawson never hesitates to attack all elements of the prosecution's case, including any breath test results.
Breathalyzers and DUI Arrests in Alpharetta County
By driving on roads and highways in Georgia, you have given your consent to submit to a chemical test, should law enforcement officials suspect you of driving under the influence. Officers who stop an individual may perform various tests to determine if a DUI arrest is warranted, as well as performing tests subsequent to an arrest.
The device used by law enforcement in DUI investigations is the Intoxilyzer 9000. This machine uses an infrared spectroscopic technique to identify and quantify alcohol in the breath. The results give a quantity in units of mass of alcohol per volume of blood. Therefore, a BAC of 0.1 means that there are 0.10 g of alcohol for every dL of blood.
Levels have been set by the state of Georgia as to the "legal limit" for blood alcohol concentration for different types of drivers:
- .08: the limit for drivers over the age of 21 operating with a non-commercial license
- .04: the limit for drivers operating with a commercial driving license (CDL)
- .02: the limit for drivers under the age of 21
These machines have the noble goal of attempting to be the final word on who is safe or unsafe to be operating a vehicle on the roads of Georgia. However, they were designed and tested under perfect environmental conditions, on healthy individuals, by trained and competent administrators. These are not the conditions of the average DUI investigation.
Why You Should Challenge the Breathalyzer
Most people are shocked to learn that so many factors can come into play during a breath test. Some of the complications which can interfere with an accurate breath test reading include, but are not limited to some of the following matters.
Medical Conditions Can Cause Inaccurate BAC Reading
A breathalyzer machine, as mentioned above, uses an infrared spectroscopic technique to identify and quantify alcohol in the breath. In the context of driving under the influence, the results displayed should directly result from beverage alcohol that an individual has consumed. However, certain processes within our bodies brought on by certain medical conditions can result in other types of alcohols being present on our breath.
One of the most common medical conditions that can result in alcohol on the breath is diabetes. A diabetic system struggles to process insulin naturally. Reduced insulin levels mean that cells do not receive adequate glucose. To compensate for the absence of glucose, bodily cells revert to burning fat at a much higher rate. A byproduct of this process is that the level of ketones in the body will rise. This is known as diabetic ketoacidosis. When this occurs, acetone will be found in very high quantities on the breath. This substance can be read as alcohol by an infrared spectroscopic process (those used in breath test machines).
Diabetes isn't the only reason why there might be high levels of acetone in the breath. Followers of a ketogenic or 'keto' diet aim to intentionally deplete their glucose stores, in order to burn more fat to lose weight / increase athletic performance. Again, a byproduct of this comes in the form of higher ketone levels and acetone being present in the breath, presenting a serious obstacle to obtaining accurate blood alcohol readings.
Officers Can Fail to Follow Protocol
Law enforcement officers are required to operate a breathalyzer machine as part of a DUI investigation, but they are required to follow certain steps in order to do so properly. Failure to correctly administer a breath test can result in unreliable results, or results that are inadmissible in a criminal proceeding. Officers should instruct the individual about to take the test that he or she should dispose of any chewing gum. Officers should also note any medications that an individual is currently taking prior to giving a breath test. One protocol which is very important is ensuring that the appropriate amount of time has passed between when an individual has consumed his or her last alcoholic beverage and when a breath test is administered. Administering a breath test too early may allow residual alcohol on the breath to create an artificially inflated BAC result.
Officers must follow other protocol designed to safeguard your constitutional rights. You must be informed of your rights before being subjected to a chemical test. 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
According to CMI, the company that manufactures the Intoxilyzer 9000, "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)."
The state of Georgia sets certain regulations as to how and when breath test machines must be calibrated in order to ensure they are providing accurate results. If the machine used in your arrest was not calibrated appropriately, the results may be subject to challenge.
Roswell and Alpharetta County DUI Representation
A BAC reading is not definitive proof of guilt. It is merely one piece of evidence that will be used by the prosecution. It is open for legal attack, just like many other types of evidence in a criminal case. Richard Lawson, a former DUI prosecutor, has decades of experience working with breath test machines. He knows exactly where potential weaknesses may lie. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact a Roswell-Alpharetta County DUI attorney immediately.