The Validity of Breath Tests in the News

By Andrew Mishlove on November 19, 2019


Using a breathalyzer test in DUI/OWI arrestThroughout the state of Wisconsin, people have questioned the validity and accuracy of breathalyzer tests. Many law enforcement officers rely on breathalyzers to assess driver sobriety, but there are numerous problems with relying on these devices when checking blood alcohol concentration (BAC). That’s why it’s important to speak with an OWI/DUI attorney at Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC. We know the facts about breathalyzer inaccuracy, and we want to make sure you’re not a victim of a false positive.

A recent story from The New York Times focused on the inaccuracies of breathalyzer tests and what people are doing about them. We’d like to cover some of the basic points in that article below.

Breathalyzer Tests Cannot Always Be Trusted

As many drunk driving attorneys have noted, the results of breathalyzer tests cannot always be trusted. The results can be wildly inaccurate for a number of reasons, and just because you blew a breath test does not prove you were intoxicated at the time you were behind the wheel.

In that recent New York Times story, it notes that a single New Jersey state trooper’s breathalyzer was improperly calibrated. As a result, 18,000 breathalyzer tests conducted by that trooper alone were invalidated. Knowing this, just think of how many inaccurate breathalyzer readings there may be in Wisconsin during this year.

The Risk of False Positives

All of this speaks to the risk of false positives on a breathalyzer test. When a person is falsely arrested for drunk driving, it can turn their entire life upside down. Restricted licenses, fines, possible incarceration, and other penalties can be major hassles.

If this is a second, third, or fourth OWI conviction, it can have serious impact on your professional life and finances. You may wind up with a felony on your record, and this all could be due to inaccuracies with a breathalyzer test.

Remember: Breath Is Not Blood

It’s important to note that much of the inaccuracy in breathalyzer tests comes from the fact that law enforcement is measuring breath rather than blood. A person’s breath is not a fair means of assessing the amount of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream.

Conducting a proper blood test is far more accurate, and yet there are issues with human error, storage, and poor lab work that needs to be considered as well.

Why Challenging Breath Tests Is Worthwhile

If you are charged with drunk driving because you failed a breath test, it’s worth contesting the charge. Our attorneys may find that the breath test was inaccurate and that there were other circumstances surrounding your arrest that mean the charges should be dropped.

Is Change Blowing in the Wind?

The New York Times piece we referred to notes another reason why challenging breath tests is so important. As more and more problems with breath tests became apparent, Massachusetts defense lawyers banded together to contest these false drunk driving arrests. Eventually, the state invalidated eight years worth of breathalyzer tests, which is the largest exclusion of forensic evidence in the history of the United States.

We feel that this change could happen here in Wisconsin, which will help countless people charged with drunk driving. We’re here to listen, we’re here to help, and we’re here to fight for every driver in the state.

Learn More About Disputing Breathalyzer Tests

For more information about your legal rights and options when it comes to breath-based sobriety tests, be sure to contact a skilled OWI/DUI lawyer. You can reach our law office in Milwaukee by phone at (414) 206-6978 and our law office in Oshkosh by phone at (920) 306-8420.

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