DUI stands for “driving under the influence” (commonly called “drunk driving”), which is a crime in every state. It occurs when someone is pulled over by a police officer and is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over the legal limit. Some states statutes vary on the legal limit of alcohol content in one’s blood, but it generally ranges from 0.08% to 0.10%.

What is a Breathalyzer?

A breathalyzer is a device which estimates a person’s blood alcohol content from a breath sample. It is often used by police officers after they stop a driver in order to determine whether a person is driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the influence of alcohol can be either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

How Does a Breathalyzer Work?

The breathalyzer measures one’s BAC by determining the amount of ethanol on a person’s breath. Ethanol is the key ingredient in alcohol. You can’t cheat or defeat a breathalyzer by trying to blow less air, sucking on a copper coin, or using mouthwash before blowing into a breathalyzer.

Can I Get a False Positive?

Yes. While breathalyzers are generally considered accurate, medications can affect a breathalyzer. Some medications can give its user a higher BAC reading if the medication contains alcohol or components that can cause a false positive.

Am I Required to Take a Breathalyzer Test if Asked?

Yes. Every state has “implied consent” laws. Implicitly consenting to a DUI or DWI test if pulled over when suspected of driving while under the influence is a prerequisite to obtaining your license. The penalty for failing to consent to a breathalyzer test varies from state to state. For example, some states will automatically suspend your license for a specific period of time.

Can I Challenge the Results of the Breathalyzer Test?

Yes, a skilled attorney can help a driver challenge the results of the breathalyzer test in a number of ways. Here are some common challenges:

  • Demonstrate that Breathalyzers are Not Reliable Indicators of BAC: Breathalyzers are not 100% accurate, and often have an error rate. In cases where the driver’s BAC is only slightly above the legal limit, an attorney can challenge the results as being inaccurate.
  • Call Into Question the Training of the Officer Administering the Test: There are times you can question whether the police officer who administered the breathalyzer did it correctly. Some officers administer the exam incorrectly because they have insufficient or inadequate training. The improper training can lead to faulty results.
  • Argue that the BAC Results were High Due to Medication: As explained above, some medications can increase one’s BAC. If you were on certain medications that may raise your BAC, you can challenge the results on that ground.
  • Argue the Exam was Illegal: In order to administer a breathalyzer, a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the person driving is driving under the influence. This gives the officer probable cause to pull over the driver. An attorney can question whether the officer had adequate probable cause to pull over the driver and administer the breathalyzer.

Should I Seek Legal Advice?

Breathalyzer tests can be very unreliable. Even if you fail a breathalyzer test, you should consult a skilled DUI/DWI lawyer to see if you have any defenses.  It is always wise to consult a lawyer about your situation.