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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: April 1, 2011
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A common belief is that if someone “failed” a breath test, then that person was intoxicated. That belief, however, is far from the truth. Many factors can cause breath testing machines to produce false blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings.

After a DWI arrest, police officers must closely watch the person arrested prior to taking breath samples for testing. During this period of observation, the officer must ensure that the person to be tested did not put any objects in his or her mouth. Items, such as gum, mints, or water, may cause a breath testing reading to be artificially elevated.

Furthermore, food or chewing tobacco in a person’s mouth could negatively affect breath testing results. Remnants of food or tobacco may have absorbed alcohol from drinks consumed prior to breath testing. Any amount of alcohol in a person’s mouth during breath testing will cause a significant increase in the breath testing result.

Certain chronic physical conditions may also cause falsely elevated breath test readings. For example, gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are conditions that allow digestive acid, along with food or alcohol, to rise into the esophagus, throat, and mouth. Drinking alcohol will aggravate these conditions. Reflux that occurs immediately prior to or during breath testing can cause alcohol in the stomach to enter the mouth. Mouth alcohol will mix with breath samples and directly inflate the breath alcohol reading.

At the time of breath testing, all electronic devices must be removed from the breath testing room. Cell phones, police radios, and other devices that emit radio frequencies or electromagnetic waves have been shown to interfere with breath testing machines.

Unfortunately, these are only a few of the issues that impact the accuracy of breath testing. A proper investigation by a DWI attorney should reveal whether alleged breath testing results in a DWI investigation were accurate.

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