Whenever Maryland law enforcement officers stop someone for suspected drunk driving, one of the most commonly-administered roadside field sobriety tests is a Breathalyzer. This device measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath, which correlates to the amount in their blood.
Breathalyzers are a widely-used preliminary screening tool that help officers evaluate a person’s level of intoxication. The results often help them determine whether to place someone under arrest. However, they’re not 100 percent accurate.
Breathalyzers are extremely sensitive and require regular calibration. If regularly and properly calibrated, they can measure the presence of alcohol with great precision. If they aren’t correctly maintained and calibrated, however, their accuracy can be compromised.
While Breathalyzers are designed to detect and measure the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath, they can’t distinguish between alcohol from a glass of whiskey and alcohol from mouthwash or some other substance, e.g., some medicines used for toothaches. It’s also possible that nearby fumes from paint, adhesives and cleaning products could impact a Breathalyzer reading.
Many people are surprised to learn that Breathalyzer test results aren’t always allowed to be used as evidence against a person in court. Even if prosecutors introduce results in a DUI trial, there are ways to challenge the results and get them thrown out.
If there’s any doubt that the device wasn’t properly and regularly calibrated, a judge may rule the test inadmissible. The same is true if the officer who administered the test wasn’t properly trained to do so.
Also, if it can be shown that you didn’t do anything to give an officer reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence (such as weaving between lanes, running stop signs or otherwise driving dangerously), the Breathalyzer may be considered an illegal search.
The same is true if the officer didn’t have probable cause to suspect you of being intoxicated. Probable cause in DUI cases often involves someone smelling like alcohol, slurring their words or having an open container of alcohol in the front seat.
If you’re facing a DUI charge, don’t assume that because a Breathalyzer test showed you to be above the legal limit, you will automatically be convicted. A Maryland DUI attorney can discuss the various ways in which you may be able to successfully fight the charge.