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New York Times study reveals problems with breath tests

In California and across the United States, breath tests may no longer constitute accurate ways to measure whether drivers are inebriated while driving their vehicles. A recent New York Times report mentioned that approximately 30,000 breath tests were not used in court because of their inaccuracies. Sometimes, the breath tests are not even properly calibrated, which often results in inaccurate readings. The thorough investigation involved interviews with more than 100 attorneys, business executives, law enforcement officers and scientific researchers.

The report investigated numerous corporate documents and records. According to the study, it is not feasible to determine blood alcohol levels based solely on breath test results. Many things can go wrong with a breath test. In addition to faulty calibrations, older machines may have bad components, causing them to yield false readings. Breath testing devices can also fail due to poor programming resulting in numerous mistakes. Some handheld devices cause inaccurate readings if drivers are tested while they have breath mints in their mouths.

A false reading on a breath test means that a driver goes free or faces a false DUI charge. In Massachusetts, approximately 36,000 drunk driving cases were thrown out of court due to imperfect readings. Some of these drivers may have had high blood alcohol content levels. A dismissed charge means that the person may continue to drive while under the influence. An accurate field sobriety test is a necessity, yet faulty breath tests continue to plague the legal system.

People faced with drunk driving charges may wish to consult with a criminal law lawyer. A DUI conviction can lead to drivers’ license revocations and fines. A felony DUI is a serious offense that may require assistance from a lawyer.

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.