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Issues with Breathalyzers In DC

Breath tests are commonly used throughout the United States to gauge impairment during DUI stops. While they are typically accurate, there are certain issues with breathalyzers in DC that can occur. Sometimes readings can be inaccurate due to a medical condition the individual may have, or residual blood alcohol in a person’s mouth.

It is important to work with a qualified DUI lawyer that is aware of the issues that can arise during breath test administration and could leverage those issues when challenging the prosecution’s case. Speak with a skilled attorney that could fight for you.

How do Breathalyzers Work?

Breathalyzer machines work by taking a sample of breath from deep inside a person’s lungs. This is why a person has to give such a deep and long breath sample to get a reliable result. The police need a long breath sample to get a good result and not just a sample of the breath in someone’s mouth, which is one of the issues with breathalyzers in DC.

The breath in a person’s mouth could potentially have a much higher concentration of alcohol than the breath in a person’s lungs. It is only the breath in a person’s lungs that actually give the police an accurate blood alcohol content reading. However, if a person burps right before giving a breath sample; that can bring a scent of alcohol from a person’s stomach up into their mouth, which is sometimes referred to as residual blood alcohol. If that sample is used in the breathalyzer machine, it could give someone an inaccurate reading.

Importance of the 20-Minute Observation Period

When a police officer asks someone to submit to a breathalyzer test, there are several steps that the officer must follow to get a reliable blood alcohol content result from the breathalyzer machine.

The most important thing an officer must do is conduct a 20-minute observation period. During the 20-minute observation period, officers are required to observe the person they are about to test to make sure they do not regurgitate, burp, or do a number of other things that could result in an inaccurate breath test. For example, burping may result in an inaccurate breath test because it can increase a person’s residual mouth alcohol.

Impact of Dental Devices on Breathalyzer Readings

Another factor that could result in issues with breathalyzers in DC, is when the person being tested has any dental devices or anything else in their mouth at the time of testing. Having something in one’s mouth such as a retainer or other kind of dental device can result in the mouth device trapping alcohol in some form. The alcohol trapped in a person’s mouth could give an inaccurate reading because it could skew the reading from the lungs and in doing so; skew the blood alcohol content calculation.

Issues DC Has Had with Breathalyzer Machines

The biggest problem that the District of Columbia had with the significant breathalyzer machine issues that occurred in 2011 was that, allegedly, some of the government experts knew about the potential issues with breathalyzers in DC, and knew that the calibrations were off. Many people in DC government, including some people in the DC Attorney General’s Office who prosecute these cases, and some people in Metropolitan Police Department supposedly ignored the beliefs of some of the DC experts or simply said it was not a big deal and was not creating any problems.

That created a significant backlash against the DC government for the allegation that they knew about some of these problems and did not do anything about it. Ever since then, the DC government is much more vigilant about keeping up with proper calibration, using proper calibration methods, and ensuring that all of the people who are supposed to be calibrating the breathalyzer machine are properly trained to do so.

Defense attorneys who were told the machines were reliable and were giving accurate readings were told later that the test results were potentially wrong. Defense attorneys are now much more vigilant and confirm that breath testing machines are used in a proper way so that people can rely on the accuracy of breath testing results. If an individual believes that the results of their breath test were inaccurate, they should seek the services of a seasoned DUI attorney that could pursue justice for them.

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