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Are Breathalyzers Always Right?

Posted on: November 20th, 2017 0 Comments    Auto Accident Attorney in Cleveland, Ohio

No, breathalyzers are not always right.

In fact, the handheld devices some police use after stopping drivers for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol produce results so unreliable that Ohio courts do not recognize the readings as scientifically valid evidence at all. Anyone facing trial for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI) in or around Columbus owes it to him or herself to hire an experienced Columbus DUI attorney to challenge breath test results.

 

Refuse Requests to Blow Into a Portable Breathalyzer

Columbus police and Ohio State Highway Patrol officers are allowed to carry and use alcohol breath-testing devices. They can consider the results when deciding to make an initial arrest and order additional alcohol and drug testing at a state-certified laboratory. They cannot, however, submit a reading from a portable breath-testing device to a court as evidence to support an OVI conviction.

The kinds of devices most people picture when they think “breathalyzers” are simply too inaccurate to provide evidence of intoxication. They are either too sensitive, misidentifying structurally similar chemicals as the ethyl alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor, or too easily misused and misread, falsely confirming a decision the arresting officer has already reached.

Agreeing to blow into a portable alcohol breath testing device can only make things worse for a driver suspected of driving drunk. Since Ohio laws do not make it illegal to refuse roadside breath testing, drivers should say something like, “I prefer not to blow into a breathalyzer, officer,” when asked.

 

Question Breath Tests Done at Labs

Despite mistrusting field tests for alcohol on the breath of OVI suspects completely, Ohio courts place great faith in breath-testing results obtained at certified medical facilities and police stations. Many of the same problems exist, however.

Suspects who cannot generate the lung power to register a readable result can be accused of noncompliance and charged — falsely — for test refusal. Beyond that purely physical problem, blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) measured by doing analyses of people’s breath can be artificially raised by what an individual ate recently, use of mouthwash, vomiting, and even a high fever.

A Columbus traffic lawyer will explore all such confounding factors, as well as how the officer conducted the testing. Police must follow a script when request a breath sample and explain the consequences of refusing to comply. If the required information is not shared with a suspect, test results may be thrown out.

A Columbus traffic defense lawyer will also check to see if the breath-testing equipment used at the lab was recently serviced and used correctly. Any breakdown in procedures that are spelled out in great detail by state judges and regulators can provide grounds for requesting that OVI charges be dismissed.

 

Worry About Ignition Interlock Devices

 

A sentence for an OVI conviction frequently includes an order to install an ignition interlock device in each vehicle owned and driven on a regular basis. Such devices are often called car breathalyzers because they shut off the engine unless the driver blows an alcohol-free breath sample into the device. Samples are required when the vehicle is started and every 15-30 minutes while the vehicle is running. An alarm sounds when a breath sample is required. Ignoring the demand for a breath test or registering a positive BAC stops the vehicle and generates a report for the people monitoring compliance.

The person under sentence for OVI must pay for the installation of the ignition interlock device, pay to have it checked and calibrated every two weeks or each month, and pay to replace a broken or defective device. When calibration slips, false positives become more likely, which increases the risk for rearrest and sentencing for more jail time and other sanctions.

If you need help from a DUI defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio, talk to a Columbus traffic attorney now.


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