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What You Need to Know about Breathalyzers

A Breathalyzer is a type of machine used to estimate a person’s blood-alcohol content. The term “Breathalyzer” is actually a brand of breath test instruments that has become a generic term for all such devices. Breathalyzers do not directly measure a person’s blood alcohol content, but provide an estimation of blood alcohol content by measuring the amount of alcohol in one’s breath. For a direct determination of a person’s blood alcohol content, a blood test is required.

Most breathalyzers work by using infrared spectroscopy that does not actually measure the presence of alcohol, but the presence of molecules in the methyl group. This has been known to create inaccurate blood-alcohol readings as there are many substances and natural chemical imbalances that cause a high level of methyl molecules to be present in an individual’s breath. This is especially true in people who are diabetic or on a diet.

Diabetics produce more acetone than “average” people and acetone is not distinguishable from alcohol in Breathalyzers that use infrared spectroscopy. Breathalyzers may also read traces of absorbed gasoline or glue vapors as alcohol, thus contaminating blood-alcohol results. Blood-alcohol readings have also shown to be inaccurate when there are temperature changes, or when a person is breathing irregularly. A criminal defense attorney with experience handling DUI cases should be familiar with the inadequacies and inaccuracies of breathalyzers and help you develop a case to fight your arrest.

Breathalyzers are the most common type of device used in DUI cases as they are portable, relatively accurate and officers can collect a sample at the scene of the traffic stop. If you are pulled over and an officer asks you to take a Breathalyzer test, it is mandatory that you cooperate and submit to such a test. The mandate to comply with Breathalyzer testing is an assumed agreement you accept when you receive a license to drive a motor vehicle.

Refusing to take a Breathalyzer test may result in a suspension of your license and points on your driving record. In some instances, these consequences may be reversed (see What You Need to Know about Blood-Alcohol Tests), but it is best to comply with an officer’s request for a Breathalyzer to avoid charges that are in addition to the DUI charges you may already face.

Since Breathalyzers are prone to be inaccurate and are often used incorrectly or improperly, it is important to consult a criminal defense attorney if you are arrested for DUI. If you are arrested for DUI, you face criminal charges in most states. As such, it is very important that you not only understand your legal rights, but ensure that they are protected. The best way to do that is to hire a criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience with DUI law and has successfully represented other clients in situations that are similar to yours.

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