A New York Times investigation revealed that breathalyzers used to detect a vehicle driver’s blood alcohol content may often provide inaccurate test results. When one of these machines — even if not 100% reliable — shows an individual’s BAC over the 0.08% legal limit, it could lead to a charge of driving under the influence. 

A strong legal defense may counteract the charge and help convince the court that, because of an inaccurate test result, a conviction lacks justification. As reported by The New York Times, judges presiding over DUI cases tossed at least 30,000 breathalyzer tests during a one-year period due to evidence of negligent oversight and errors. 

Improperly calibrated roadside testing machines could provide law enforcement officials with imprecise or skewed results. They may sometimes show a motorist’s BAC level as much as 40% higher than it actually is. 

To administer a roadside breathalyzer test, a law enforcement official must first have probable cause to believe that a motorist is driving while impaired. Indicators such as a strong alcohol smell, observed vehicle swerving or a driver’s slurred speech could convince an officer to request a motorist to submit to a breath test. Factors that may influence the accuracy of a roadside breathalyzer’s test results, however, include everyday household items such as hand sanitizer, breath mints and mouthwash. 

An individual holding a driver’s license issued by the Empire State generally must submit to a roadside breathalyzer test when asked to do so by an arresting officer. Refusing a test may result in a one-year suspension of a driver’s license and a $500 fine, as noted on the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website. Strong evidence of a faulty test result, however, may provide an individual with the means to avoid a conviction.