Reliability of Breathalyzers in DC DUI Cases

Washington, D.C. breathalyzer machines have a long history of calibration problems, errors in maintenance, and in general unreliability. Going back as long as ten to fifteen years, there have been significant problems with the reliability of the results of breath testing machines in DUI cases.

As a result of these problems, the D.C. government has attempted to fix the D.C. breath testing system to make sure that they have proper maintenance and calibration method.

However even with these methods in place, it’s important for DC DUI defense attorneys to maintain vigilance in the face of breath testing and to constantly check on proper maintenance and reliability in any case where the government is attempting to use a breath score as evidence.

Read below to learn about some of the ways that breathalyzers can give false results, before calling and scheduling a free consultation to discuss your case.

What Are Some Ways That Breathalyzers Can Result In False Positive or Inaccurately High BAC Scores?

There are several possible ways that a Breathalyzer machine can produce an inaccurately high breath alcohol content score. One of the most common ways for that to happen is residual mouth alcohol.

If a person has recently belched or vomited, then those actions can result in excessive alcohol coming up from the stomach into a person’s mouth and that excessive alcohol can produce a large sample of alcohol in the machine beyond what a person actually had in their bloodstream at the time.

The way that a police officer is supposed to avoid this from happening in order to be able to get a reliable reading of a person’s breath alcohol content is by conducting a twenty-minute observation period prior to collecting a breath sample in order to be able to observe whether or not a person has belched, vomited, or had something else happen that can result in residual mouth alcohol. If a police officer does not follow that twenty-minute observation requirement, then the reliability of the resulting breath alcohol content score potentially can be questioned.

Are Government Experts Aware of The Issues With Breathalyzer Machines and Why Do They Continue To Use It?

There is a major debate as to whether or not in Washington, D.C. the government experts tasked with properly maintaining and calibrating the breath testing system were aware of the problems that the system had and whether or not the prosecutor charged with enforcing DUI laws were also aware of these problems. Regardless of the awareness of the various issues with calibration and maintenance of breath testing machines, the prosecutors continue to use Breathalyzers for a very simple reason. They are the easiest way and the cheapest way to be able to test for blood alcohol content. The two other methods for testing, which are urine testing and blood testing, are very time consuming and extremely costly.

Urine testing, for example, is required to go to the office of the chief medical examiner at which point it’s required to be tested by a technician and then requires the testimony of the officer of the chief medical examiner in order to be able to submit into evidence the results of urine testing. The urine test itself can sometime take three months before the results actually come back.

Blood testing is required to be drawn at a hospital by a nurse and it also requires additional time and additional technicians to be able to get proper results back. Breath testing can be completed by pretty much any officer who has the time to be able to certify as the breath testing operator which does not take very much time at all. The results of the breath tests are available immediately and it is very simple to testify to the results of breath testing. The system is cheap and it is very quick. That is the reason why the D.C. government continues to rely almost exclusively on breath testing as opposed to any other type of testing.