Recent studies have shown that breath tests are not always accurate and can lead to a false DUI arrest.

Seeing red and blue flashing lights behind one’s car is no laughing matter, especially if drivers have consumed some amount of alcohol. For people in Boulder, a traffic stop can lead to a breath test and an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Breath tests are routinely used in Colorado by law enforcement agencies but there is often a great debate over whether they are accurate.

No scientific method

Many people assume that a breath test is scientific-based, and therefore, indisputable. However the National Motorists Association states that a breath test is not scientific at all. A breath test simply takes a sample of air and determines whether alcohol is present while a blood test measures the amount of alcohol that is in a person’s body.

In studies conducted, breath test results were compared with blood tests and researchers discovered that while a person’s blood test may show the BAC as 0.15, a breath test could indicate that the person’s alcohol content is around 0.1. This may not sound like a big difference but if a person has consumed an alcoholic drink, and is close to the legal limit, a breath test could show them over the legal limit, leading to an arrest for drunk driving.

Measures different types of alcohol

It is important to keep in mind that there are different types of alcohol compounds and with the right mixture of chemicals or other ingredients, they can be used in a number of products. For example, ethyl alcohol is found in medicinal rubbing alcohol, paint stripping products and alcoholic beverages. Isopropyl alcohol is used medicinally on infections but can also be found in many paint strippers as well.

The State University of New York points out that many breath-measuring machines are not designed to eliminate the presence of other alcohol compounds or compounds that are similar to ethanol (ethyl alcohol). In one study, a person used oil-based paint and contact cement and then was issued a breath test. Although the person had not consumed any alcohol, their BAC measured at .12 – well over the legal limit of 0.08.

At any given time, a person’s breath will contain over 100 different chemical compounds and many of these compounds contain molecular structures similar to ethyl.

Factors that affect readings

In addition to the lack of science and the inability to discern between alcohol compounds, a breath test can also be influenced by a person’s environment, diet and physical condition. Factors that affect readings include electrical signals from police equipment and cellphones, gasoline, blood, moisture, recent exercise and dirt.

Despite the many problems that exist with breath test machines, law enforcement agencies and Colorado’s lawmakers still insist on using them. Wrong readings can lead to a wrongful DUI conviction which comes with a number of penalties. Therefore, it is a good idea to discuss your arrest with an experienced attorney.