NY drivers may be falsely arrested from inaccurate Breathalyzer results

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

New York residents who choose to have a few drinks with dinner should be extremely cautious when getting behind the wheel of a car. New York law enforcement has been cracking down on drunk driving, partly due to the fact that drunk driving fatalities have been on the rise throughout the state. In 2012, there were 344 drunk driving fatalities, which was a 4.9 percent increase from the prior year, as reported by madd.org. According to responsibility.org, approximately 33,053 people in New York were arrested for DUIs in 2012. It is unclear, however, how many of those people were victims of inaccurate Breathalyzer readings.

UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS OF BREATHALYZER DEVICES

Handheld Breathalyzer devices are used by law enforcement officers across the state of New York and throughout the county as a way to identify people who are driving while intoxicated. The driver is asked to blow a breath sample into a tube that is connected to a small, handheld device. The Breathalyzer then analyzes the breath sample and measures the amount of ethyl alcohol present. The number is converted to a blood alcohol concentration reading, which is used to estimate the amount of alcohol in the driver's blood system. A driver that has a BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher is above the legal intoxication limit and may be arrested.

ARE BREATHALYZER DEVICES RELIABLE?

According to LaBianca, Simpson, Thompson et al, Breathalyzer devices are subject to an alarming rate of inaccuracy when measuring a driver's BAC level. These credible researchers performed a battery of studies comparing the BAC reading from a Breathalyzer device to the actual blood alcohol content obtained from a blood test. They found a 50 percent margin of error, which is enough to send an innocent driver to jail. For example, a BAC reading of 0.1 percent on a Breathalyzer device may correlate to an actual BAC of between 0.05 and 0.15 percent.

REASONS FOR THE DISCREPANCY

After numerous studies and extensive research into the use and operation of Breathalyzer devices, researchers from the State University of New York have found that there are several reasons why the device may produce a false reading. These include:

  • Environmental irritants can affect the accuracy of a reading, including paint remover, tobacco smoke, gasoline, dirt, cellphone interference and moisture.
  • Devices that have not been calibrated properly can produce false results.
  • The presence of structures similar to ethyl alcohol can be found in a breath sample given by diabetics and individuals who are dieting, even though they have not consumed any alcohol. These substances can read as ethyl alcohol on a Breathalyzer device, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
  • The digestion of certain bread products can produce ethyl alcohol readings.

HOW CAN AN ATTORNEY HELP?

Being arrested for a DUI can be overwhelming. Not only do you face a number of penalties, but having a DUI on your record can affect many areas of your life, including the ability to find employment, obtain a driver's license and receive funding for school. An attorney can help those who face DUI charges formulate a strong defense case and minimize the risk of being convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol.