Have or someone you know been pulled over by the police for suspicion of drinking and driving? Then the officer asked you to take a breath test to measure your blood alcohol concentration, and you blow way higher than you expected? You can honestly claim that you didn’t drink enough to blow past the legal limit, but before you know it, the officer cites you for a DUI.

Some claim that drinking with one ounce of alcohol in your system should never occur, while others believe that as long as you know your limit and don’t exceed it, having a couple of beers before driving is no big deal.

In the situation highlighted above, our moral focuses shouldn’t matter. What should matter is if the breathalyzer malfunctioned. 

Breathalyzer machines are small but massively technical and require regular maintenance to work properly. Suppose a breathalyzer malfunctions, and the charged driver doesn’t get the DUI charge reversed. In that case, the convicted driver would end up paying fines, possibly serving jail time, would have there license suspended and have a damaging mark on their criminal history.

So what factors can cause a breathalyzer to malfunction and spew out inaccurate readings?

  • Calibrations: Because of their highly technical nature, breathalyzer machines need regular calibration to work correctly on a consistent basis. If there is lax oversight from the police station or third-party company designated with keeping the devices upgraded, false readings can occur.
  • Foreign substances: A false positive can occur if the driver has certain elements on their breath, like acetone, mouthwash, dental medication and breath fresheners. This is one reason why officers need to conduct multiple breath tests.
  • Software: Software tailored specifically to breathalyzers run those little machines, and just as a computer’s operating system can malfunction, breathalyzer software can malfunction, even when they receive appropriate calibration.
  • Human error: The officer could run the machine improperly. Humans make mistakes, and police officers are human.
  • Environmental factors: Elements like smoke, paint fumes, varnish, and chemicals radiating from certain plastics and adhesives can lead to an inaccurate reading.

While the police take their job seriously and should not be automatically indicted on improper use, drivers should also be aware that a false positive is possible. If you get charged with a DUI, the possibility of an inaccurate result is another reason why proper DUI representation is critical to receiving a fair outcome.