Breathalyzer Tests Can Be Wrong: 5 Reasons for False-Positive Results

You’re driving along when you see the blue lights of a police car in your rearview window. If the officer merely suspects you of driving under the influence (DUI), you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll be asked to take a breathalyzer test.

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t agree to take it.

For starters, your refusal to take a breathalyzer in Georgia cannot be used against you later in court. Another compelling reason to decline is that breathalyzers are notorious for producing false-positive results.

In this article, we’ll look further into the long list of troubling problems with breathalyzers.

Hopefully, you’ll come to the conclusion you should never agree to be tested by one – under any circumstances.

How Often are Breathalyzers Wrong?

They’re wrong so often that earlier in November, the New York Times ran an investigative report strongly advising the machines not be trusted.

Seriously. The words “Don’t Trust Them” appear in the title of the article about breathalyzers.

A direct quote from the articles states, “….those tests – a bedrock of the criminal justice system – are often unreliable. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal point.”

In other words, you shouldn’t buy into the hype of breathalyzer machines, regardless of how hard a police officer is trying to convince you.

What Can Cause a False Positive on a Breathalyzer Test?

There’s a host of potential problems with a breathalyzer-testing unit that could result in a false-positive result.

The Testing Unit’s Software

According to the Times article, many states have selected breathalyzer-testing devices their own experts have trouble trusting. While it’s near impossible to obtain a unit for private purposes, one obtained by New Jersey Supreme Court officials contained numerous programming errors.

Keep in mind the breathalyzer devices require regular maintenance to stay updated. They also need tuning or calibration to adjust to the conditions at the time of use. Simple mistakes by police officers in failing to maintain or calibrate the device can lead to a wrong reading.

Foods and Other Products

Many products we eat and drink contain traces of alcohol detectable by a breathalyzer unit – triggering a false-positive result.

Certain brands of toothpaste, mouthwash, aftershave, breath mints, and cough syrups have at least some alcohol in them. Some foods – ripe fruits, protein bars, energy drinks, pecans, macadamia nuts, and many others – have also been known to cause a false positive breathalyzer test result.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Diabetes, hypoglycemia, and acid reflux are just a few of the medical conditions that have the ability to impact your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings.

Certain medications can also increase your BAC reading, including:

  • Allergy pills
  • Cold medicines
  • Asthma medications
  • Oral gels for toothache relief.

Even if you have a valid medical reason to use these products, they can register false breathalyzer results.

Natural Reaction of the Human Body

Science tells us that our bodies will naturally create roughly one-part alcohol for every 2,100 parts blood. It’s only natural to conclude that this has a certain impact on BAC level readings. Other naturally occurring variables can wreak havoc with BAC readings, including our respiration rate, body temperature, and hormone levels.

Exposure to Fumes

If you’ve been around cleaning chemicals, paint removers and thinners, gasoline and other similar chemical-based materials, inhaling even modest amounts of the fumes can cause you to experience a feeling similar to intoxication and cause a false breathalyzer test result.

What Should I Do if I’m Pulled Over for DUI Suspicion In Georgia?

The way you conduct yourself will play a big role in determining how you’re treated by law enforcement. If you’re argumentative, you may be risking a charge of resisting.

Your best course of action is to remain calm, be polite and say as little as possible.

Even though you may be tempted to answer every question the officer asks, provide nothing else beyond your name and identifying information. Any questions beyond that should be referred to your DUI defense attorney.

Even though the officer will try their best to convince you to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test, there’s simply no reason you should – and plenty of reasons why you should not.

The truth of the matter is police officers are under no obligation to tell you such tests are voluntary, and there is no legal consequence for refusing to take part.