Can Police Cause False Positive Breathalyzer Results?

Breathalyzer tests are the BAC examination option of preference for Arizona law enforcement professionals. The test is easy to administer and the results are instantaneous.

If you’re asked to do a breathalyzer test, however, you may wonder whether the actions of the police officer can influence the results one way or the other. Is it possible for a police officer to get a reading that’s not 100 percent accurate due to their actions? If so, what rights do you have and how can you protect yourself against an unfair conviction?

Procedure for Breath Testing in Arizona

The machine used in this type of test measures the concentration of alcohol in the air exhaled during the administration.

A police officer should give you a comprehensive overview of the test and what you’ll need to do. In essence, you will have to blow into the machine and it will deliver a BAC reading. A machine used for the purpose will need to be properly calibrated to ensure the accuracy of the results.

In addition, police officers can use only a certain set of devices that have undergone rigorous testing to ensure accuracy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a list of machines approved for use on the road.

Keep in mind that while preparing for the test, a police officer will need to examine the behavior of a suspect for at least 20 minutes. The subject will have to meet a certain set of criteria for the test to be considered admissible evidence in court.

If all conditions are met, the test can be administered. Five to 10 minutes after the first administration, the Arizona law enforcement professional should do a second breathalyzer test. In order to be considered accurate, the two test results will have to be within 0.020 BAC of each other. A larger difference will get the results dismissed because they’ll be considered out of range.

Can a Police Officer Affect the Results?

A device that is not working properly or that isn’t calibrated can give a false positive. Thus, it’s very important for law enforcement professionals to be certified and to know what they’re doing with the machine.

You should be instructed about what to do when the breathalyzer test is administered. As already mentioned, the police officer should also observe you or interact with you for approximately 20 minutes before you go through with the test.

Calibration errors and not being instructed properly about how to breathe into the machine can affect the outcome and the accuracy of the test.

A police officer should also take note of medications or oral mouthwashes you may be using. Some of these pharmaceutical products could contain alcohol or they could affect the BAC rating in another way. Law enforcement professionals are also instructed about medical conditions that could contribute to elevated BAC readings in a breathalyzer test (GERD is one of these conditions).

Suspicious? Tell Your Lawyer!

If you believe that the BAC breathalyzer test has produced a false positive, you should let your DUI defense attorney know. Share information about the reasons why you believe the test was inaccurate, as well.

Most police officers will not do anything intentionally to interfere with the BAC test results. Mistakes do occur, however, whether due to fatigue, inexperience, or something else.

A lawyer can challenge the test results on the basis of a procedural failure, the law enforcement professional’s inability to calibrate the machine properly, or the basis of environmental interference. Breathalyzer tests aren’t as accurate as blood alcohol tests, which is why these results could be easier to challenge.

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