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Q: breathalyzer ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: breathalyzer
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: kim1213-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 27 Aug 2003 12:13 PDT
Expires: 26 Sep 2003 12:13 PDT
Question ID: 249315
what are some things that can make a inacurate breathalyzer reading?
Subject: Re: breathalyzer
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 27 Aug 2003 14:55 PDT
Dear kim1213-ga;

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting

Drawing from my 20+ years in law enforcement I can tell you that there
are a number of things can that cause a breathalyzer to show an
inaccurate reading, depending on what type of breathalyzer is used.
Not the least of which are some of the most common factors I have
noted over the years in training and in actual hands-on experience.
False readings on a breathalyzer can sometimes be caused by:

User error – if the technician is not trained well or makes an error
this can lead to false results.

Improper or outdated calibration – this can cause the machine to show
an inaccurate result.

Misconduct – some of the less technical breath testing devices can be
manipulated to show a false reading if an unscrupulous officer chose
to do that. It is rare, but we’d be less the honest if we didn’t
recognize the fact that anything dishonest that has a potential to
occur, probably does from time to time.

Monitor time – (this is important) routinely a subject is monitored
for 15-20 minutes to allow any residual alcohol vapors that might be
in the mouth to dissipate prior to taking the test (if you are not
given this time the results can come into question) to make sure he
does not do any of the following:

Alcohol – A breathalyzer is designed to sample the air in your lungs,
thereby measuring the alcohol content of the blood. If you have
alcohol lingering in your mouth from recent drinking this can drive
the results higher than the actual blood alcohol content.

Vomit – regurgitating an alcoholic beverage from the stomach into the
mouth in close proximity to test time can interfere with the test
results. Again, this will cause the machine to measure unabsorbed, and
undigested alcohol that returns to the mouth from the stomach that
would not otherwise be measured in a sample of air from the lungs.

Reflux – belching an alcoholic beverage immediately prior to the test
can also affect the test results. As with the others above, the
machine will register fumes or liquid alcohol that is belched up from
the stomach rather that only measuring the air in the lungs and an
increased reading will often result.

Certain medications – particularly medicines that contain alcohol
(like cough syrup, cold medication, elixirs, mouthwash, breath
freshener, inhalers, etc) can adversely affect the test results.

Smoking – smoking immediately before a test can also lead to
questionable results.

Certain equipment – giving the test in close proximity to ion
generators (like the kind used as air cleaners) and central HVAC
electronic filtration systems can cause problems.

Diabetes – diabetics often emit a fruity, wine-like odor from their
mouths and on their breath, especially during a severe diabetic
episode, and this is sometimes mistaken for drunkenness. While a
diabetic may even exhibit all the symptoms of intoxication due to his
condition, including unsteadiness, slurred speech and confusion,
diabetes alone usually doesn’t cause you to register alcohol content
except in some rare instances where machines have been known to pick
up an abnormally high levels of ketones and register that as an
alcohol reading.


Mistaking a diabetic for a drunk driver used to be much more common
until it was identified some years ago and now most officers are
trained to watch for this medical condition if the breathalyzer shows
no reading, as it can be a serious medical threat.

Some food, candies and gum have also been known to cause problems with
the breath test, but it should be noted that there are several
different kinds of breathalyzer machines, each with it’s own
sensitivities. Some of them are a bit more technically advanced than
others. A recent study at John’s Hopkins suggests that extensive
exposure to Gasoline additives can also cause the device to produce an
inaccurate reading:


You may also have heard that eating garlic, peanuts or putting a penny
in your mouth will lower the results of a breathalyzer, but I assure
you that this is a myth and will get you arrested if you are relying
on these methods to conceal the fact you have been drinking.

I hope you find that that my research exceeds your expectations. If
you have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;








Google ://





Subject: Re: breathalyzer
From: expertlaw-ga on 27 Aug 2003 15:16 PDT
Keep in mind that while "breathalyzer" is used as a generic term for a
device which estimates blood alcohol based upon a breath test, it is
actually a brand name. (This is what I'm sure tutuzdad was alluding to
when he mentioned that the answer to your question depends upon the
type of breathalyzer used.) The traditional "breathalyzer" machine has
been phased out in many jurisdictions, and replaced with more modern
machines including the "BAC Datamaster", "Intoxylizer" and
"Intoximeter", each of which has its own foibles. tutuzdad covered the
various things which can affect any given breath testing device, and
as he said, the importance of each factor will vary to some degree
depending upon the specific device at issue.

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