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Factors that impact the accuracy of a breathalyzer test

Seeing those flashing blue lights in your rearview window is never fun, but it can lead to quite a serious situation if authorities believe you have ingested alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel. If you are pulled over and a law enforcement official suspects you are under the influence of alcohol, he or she will likely give you a breathalyzer test to determine if you have imbibed, and if so, to what extent. A Driving Under the Influence charge can prove damaging financially as well as emotionally, and the latter is particularly true if you genuinely were not drinking alcohol prior to being pulled over.

The fact of the matter is that breathalyzer tests simply do not always tell the whole story, and their results are not always indisputable. There are often other factors at play that may result in a false-positive breathalyzer reading, even if you are not, in fact, under the influence of alcohol. These factors may include the following:

A faulty or improperly calibrated breathalyzer device

To ensure consistent, reliable results, breathalyzers require regular calibration. They also must be checked routinely to ensure they remain undamaged and in proper working order. An improperly calibrated breathalyzer device has the potential to produce a false positive, so if you believe your reading was inaccurate, you may want to attempt to secure maintenance records or calibration records from law enforcement.

Diabetes and related health conditions

If you suffer from diabetes and failed a breathalyzer test even though you never actually consumed alcohol, it is possible this is a result of a diabetic "low." Low blood sugar and alcohol intoxication have similar effects on the human body, which can lead to false-positive breathalyzer readings.

The presence of vomit

If you vomit or even hiccup or burp right before you take a breathalyzer test, this may cause you to produce a higher reading than is accurate. Thus, law enforcement officials are typically required to watch you closely after you are pulled over to ensure none of these events occur. If they do, the official must generally wait 20 minutes before he or she can test you again.

While these factors are among the more common causes of inaccurate breathalyzer readings, others, such as exposure to paint thinners, excessive exercise and electronic interference, may, too, do the same. If you believe you were charged with DUI based on an inaccurate breathalyzer reading, you may find it beneficial to speak with a lawyer.

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