Why do breath tests malfunction?

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2024 | Owi

Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s rates of drunk driving are among the highest in the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 2.4% of adults here admit to driving after drinking too much in comparison with the national average of 1.7%.

However, every arrest is not necessarily legitimate. In fact, blood-alcohol breath tests can malfunction, resulting in a falsely elevated blood-alcohol content reading. This can lead to unjust charges and penalties for the accused. Therefore, an OWI defendant should understand how a breath test might render a false positive.

Electronic interference from surrounding devices

Electronic devices are more abundant than ever. This equipment, including cell phones, police radios and even garage door openers, can emit electromagnetic radiation, which can interfere with the accuracy of the breath test. This can cause a falsely elevated BAC reading. As a result, an officer who conducts these tests in an area with many electronic devices might not get accurate results.

Medications and medical conditions

Certain medications can also interfere with breath test readings. Cough syrups, asthma inhalers and even mouthwash contain alcohol and can alter the breath test output. Also, anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants can affect the metabolism of alcohol in the body, causing a higher-than-expected BAC reading.

Another factor that can cause breath tests to malfunction is illness or poor health. Acid reflux, diabetes and hypoglycemia can all interfere with the accuracy of the breath test because of raising the level of apparent alcohol in the mouth that is not present in the bloodstream. Furthermore, other factors can also contribute to an inaccurate breath test reading, including poor calibration, human error and a person’s diet.

Breath tests can be a useful tool for detecting drunk driving, but they are not infallible. Therefore, someone facing an OWI arrest does not necessarily have to accept a breath test reading as inerrant, as a closer investigation may reveal that the results were incorrect.

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