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Breath test accuracy an important issue to explore in DUI defense

In our last post, we spoke a bit about a new app developed by the state of Maryland which is supposed to help drivers discern when they’ve had too much to drink. As we noted, these devices may be helpful to an extent, but they offer no protection to a driver accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.

The accuracy of breath testing in measuring a driver’s level of intoxication is a potential issue not only for the various smartphone apps that have come out for consumer use, but also for the breathalyzer devices used by police officers and other authorized individuals to investigate suspected drunk drivers.  

Breath test accuracy is dependent on a number of factors. Many people don’t realize it, but the procedures that police are supposed to follow in administering breath tests are very detailed, and include using the proper certified instruments and performing ongoing maintenance testing of the devices. Failure to conduct routine maintenance of breath test devices can impact their accuracy.

In addition, officer must ensure that there are no procedural factors that taint the results of the breath test results, such as smoking, eating or drinking, or the presence of other foreign substances in the suspect’s mouth or respiratory tract prior to the test. Breath test devices must also be operated by individuals trained and authorized to use them correctly, without occurrence of error. Failure on any one of these elements throws a breath test into question.

Breath test evidence is, as we’ve previously noted, not necessary for prosecutors to obtain a conviction on a DUI charge, but it can make it easier to obtain a conviction. Those who are accused to DUI should always work with an experienced attorney to build a strong criminal defense case in which the police investigation is carefully scrutinized, including the way breath tests are administered.

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