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False high breath test results can lead to DWI charges

In our blog post last week, we discussed how the Breathalyzer test is sometimes faulty because they aren't properly calibrated. That, however, is only one of the issues that might render a Breathalyzer test faulty. There are several other factors that can affect the accuracy of these tests. All of these factors can lead to a blood alcohol concentration percentage that seems to be over the legal limit of .08 percent for most when, in fact, it isn't that high.

A person's stress level is one factor that can affect the BAC result of a Breathalzyer. When a person is under stress -- and almost everyone who has been stopped by the police and told to take a Breathalyzer test is under stress -- the BAC reading can be a false high. That is because the blood flow and pressure in the lungs are increased.

Another factor that some people might not realize affects a Breathalyzer result is a person's temperature. The test assumes that a person has a body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but that isn't always the case. A person can have a body temperature of two degrees more or less than that, which can affect the BAC reading. For every degree above the "normal" assumed temperature, the Breathalyzer will read 3.9 percent higher.

There are also several substances that can produce falsely high results. A person who uses chewing tobacco or snuff might have a high reading because of the camphor in those substances. Asthma inhalers can also cause this because of the salbutamol, salmeterol, formoterol, fluticasone and budesonide that might be found in them. Even some medical conditions like heartburn and diabetes can cause false high readings.

Taking all of this into consideration, it is easy to see why some people opt out of the Breathalyzer tests. Doing so, however, has significant consequences that can't be ignored. It is imperative that anyone considering declining a breath test understand how he or she might be impacted by that decision.

Source: Alcohol Problems and Solutions, "Prevent Unjust Conviction for DWI or DUI Charges" David J. Hanson, Ph.D., accessed Feb. 12, 2015

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