Breathalyzer Tests: Are They Accurate?

Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C.

As an experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago, I often encounter cases involving DUI charges where the evidence heavily relies on the results of a Breathalyzer test. These devices are widely used by law enforcement to measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and determine impairment. However, the accuracy of Breathalyzer tests is frequently questioned, and understanding the potential flaws and limitations of these devices is crucial for anyone facing DUI charges.

Understanding the Statute and Relevant Laws

In Illinois, driving under the influence (DUI) is governed by 625 ILCS 5/11-501. This statute makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The law also prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both to the extent that it impairs one’s ability to drive safely.

When a driver is suspected of DUI, law enforcement officers often use a Breathalyzer test to measure the driver’s BAC. These tests are conducted at the roadside (preliminary breath test) or at the police station (evidentiary breath test). While Breathalyzer tests are a convenient and non-invasive method for estimating BAC, their accuracy can be affected by various factors.

One critical aspect of DUI cases involving Breathalyzer tests is the implied consent law in Illinois. Under 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1, by driving on Illinois roads, you implicitly consent to chemical testing if law enforcement suspects you of DUI. Refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer test can result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license, even if you are not ultimately convicted of DUI.

Despite their widespread use, Breathalyzer tests are not infallible. The results can be influenced by factors such as the device’s calibration, the officer’s training and experience, and the conditions under which the test is administered. Understanding these potential issues is essential for challenging the accuracy of Breathalyzer results in court.

Potential Flaws and Limitations of Breathalyzer Tests

Breathalyzer tests, while commonly used, are subject to several potential flaws and limitations that can impact their accuracy. One significant factor is the calibration and maintenance of the device. Breathalyzers must be regularly calibrated to ensure accurate readings. If the device is not properly maintained or calibrated, it can produce inaccurate results. Defense attorneys often scrutinize the calibration records of the Breathalyzer used in their client’s case to identify potential issues.

The officer’s training and experience in administering the Breathalyzer test are also crucial. Proper administration of the test is necessary to obtain accurate results. This includes ensuring that the driver has not consumed any food or drink, smoked, or used mouthwash within a certain period before the test, as these substances can affect the results. Additionally, the officer must follow a standardized procedure when conducting the test. Any deviation from this procedure can lead to inaccurate readings and provide grounds for challenging the test results.

Environmental factors can also impact Breathalyzer accuracy. For example, substances in the environment, such as paint fumes, gasoline, or other chemicals, can be absorbed into the breath sample and produce a false positive. Similarly, medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or diabetes can affect the accuracy of the test. GERD can cause alcohol from the stomach to be present in the mouth, leading to a higher BAC reading. Diabetics can produce acetone in their breath, which Breathalyzers may mistake for ethanol, resulting in a false positive.

The device’s inherent limitations must also be considered. Breathalyzers estimate BAC based on the amount of alcohol in the breath, but the actual BAC is determined by the concentration of alcohol in the blood. The ratio used to convert breath alcohol content to BAC can vary between individuals, and factors such as body temperature and breathing patterns can influence the test results. These variations mean that Breathalyzer readings may not always accurately reflect an individual’s true BAC.

Understanding these potential flaws and limitations is essential for mounting a robust defense against DUI charges. An experienced attorney can identify and challenge these issues, potentially leading to the exclusion of the Breathalyzer results from evidence or the dismissal of the charges.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How accurate are Breathalyzer tests?

Breathalyzer tests are designed to estimate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) based on the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath. While they are generally considered reliable, their accuracy can be affected by various factors, including device calibration, the officer’s administration of the test, environmental conditions, and individual physiological differences. These potential issues can sometimes lead to inaccurate readings.

Can I refuse a Breathalyzer test in Illinois?

In Illinois, drivers are subject to implied consent laws, meaning that by operating a vehicle, you consent to chemical testing if suspected of DUI. Refusing a Breathalyzer test can result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license, regardless of whether you are ultimately convicted of DUI. The suspension period can be longer for refusals than for failing the test, making it a critical decision to consider.

What factors can affect the accuracy of a Breathalyzer test?

Several factors can impact the accuracy of a Breathalyzer test. These include improper calibration or maintenance of the device, the officer’s failure to follow proper procedures, the presence of substances in the environment or the individual’s mouth that can affect the results, and medical conditions such as GERD or diabetes. Each of these factors can lead to false positives or inaccurate BAC readings.

Can Breathalyzer results be challenged in court?

Yes, Breathalyzer results can be challenged in court. An experienced attorney can examine the circumstances surrounding the test, including the calibration and maintenance records of the device, the officer’s training and administration of the test, and any factors that may have affected the accuracy of the results. If significant issues are identified, the attorney may be able to have the Breathalyzer results excluded from evidence or the charges dismissed.

What should I do if I am charged with DUI based on Breathalyzer results?

If you are charged with DUI based on Breathalyzer results, it is crucial to seek legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review the details of your case, identify any potential issues with the Breathalyzer test, and develop a defense strategy tailored to your specific situation. The attorney can also represent you in court and negotiate on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.

Why You Need an Attorney

Facing DUI charges based on Breathalyzer results is a serious matter that requires skilled legal representation. Here’s why you need an attorney and why you should choose The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg:

Breathalyzer tests and DUI laws are complex, and understanding them requires in-depth knowledge and experience. An experienced attorney who understands these laws can provide the necessary expertise to develop a strong defense strategy. Your attorney will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal proceedings, from the initial arrest to the trial.

A knowledgeable attorney can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and present a robust defense on your behalf. This can include challenging the accuracy of the Breathalyzer test, presenting evidence and arguments to support your defense, and negotiating for reduced charges or alternative sentencing options.

Facing DUI charges can be incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing. An attorney can provide guidance, support, and reassurance throughout the process, helping you navigate the legal system and make informed decisions about your defense.

Call The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg For Your Free Consultation

If you are facing DUI charges based on Breathalyzer results, don’t face it alone. Contact The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg for skilled legal assistance. With decades of experience and a commitment to protecting your rights, and Attorney David Freidberg offers a free consultation 24/7 at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442. We serve clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, and Lake County in Illinois. Let us help you navigate the legal system and fight for your future.

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