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Each DUI case is different and experience counts.

If you were stopped by a police officer in Florida under suspicion of drunk driving, you may have taken a breathalyzer test. Now what happens?

How Do Breathalyzers Work?

​Breathalyzers, intoxilyzers, or breath analyzers, are devices used to estimate a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath sample. While breathalyzers are useful tools for law enforcement and other entities to determine intoxication levels, they are not flawless. Various factors can influence breathalyzer readings, leading to potential errors or inaccuracies. 

Can Breathalyzers Be Wrong?

Breathalyzers are not perfect. It is important to understand that these devices can

malfunction or be misused, resulting in inaccurate results. Sources of breathalyzer errors:


Device Calibration: Like many instruments, breathalyzers need regular calibration to ensure they provide accurate readings. If not calibrated correctly or regularly, the device may give skewed results.

Residual Mouth Alcohol: The breathalyzer is meant to measure alcohol from deep lung air. However, if there is residual alcohol in the mouth from a recent drink, mouthwash, or some medications, it might result in an inaccurately high reading.

Interfering Compounds: Some products and substances, such as certain mouthwashes, medications, or even some foods, contain compounds that could be detected by the breathalyzer and result in false positives.

Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions like acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or diabetes can influence the breathalyzer readings. For instance, someone with diabetes might have elevated levels of acetone in their breath, which could interfere with some devices.

Breathing Patterns: Holding your breath or hyperventilating before blowing into a breathalyzer might affect the results. Deeper breaths can pull alcohol from the mucous membranes and result in a higher reading.

Temperature: Both the subject's body temperature and the surrounding environment can influence the breathalyzer results. For instance, an elevated body temperature can elevate the BAC reading.

Device Quality and Technology: Not all breathalyzers are created equal. Lower quality or older devices might be less accurate than state-of-the-art models.

Operator Error: If the officer or person administering the breathalyzer test isn't adequately trained or doesn't follow the correct procedures, it could result in inaccurate readings.

Radio Frequency Interference: Some sources suggest that interference from electronic devices like radios or cell phones could impact breathalyzer readings.

Partition Ratio: The device assumes a blood-to-breath partition ratio, usually set at 2100:1. This means for every 2100 parts of alcohol in the blood, there's 1 part in the breath. However, this ratio can vary among individuals, leading to potential inaccuracies.

Time since Last Drink: It takes time for alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream and reach its peak level. If someone takes the test shortly after drinking, the BAC might not yet reflect their peak intoxication level.

It's important to note that while these factors can influence breathalyzer readings, the devices remain a valuable tool for estimating BAC. However, these potential sources of error underscore the importance of proper training, device maintenance, and calibration.


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Nate, Tallahassee, Florida



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