As the winter holidays approach, including potential New Year’s Eve festivities, even during the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased likelihood of cases involving DWI (driving while intoxicated), DUI (driving under the influence), and even BWI (boating while intoxicated). As such, there is an equal increase in vigilance from law enforcement with regards to policing drunk driving. With that in mind, here is more information about one of the first things that will happen if you do get pulled over for a DWI this holiday: the breath test.
How Breath Can Be Tested for Alcohol
Alcohol moves through the alveoli of the lungs when it is consumed and evaporates into your breath. This “alveolar air,” when exhaled, provides substantial evidence to breathalyzer and other related breath tests of blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This allows officers to instantly know whether someone is drunk enough to be arrested instead of having to wait for the results of a blood or urine test.
The Types of Breathalyzers and How They Work
There are three common types of devices that analyze your breath for blood alcohol content:
Of the methods for testing someone’s blood alcohol concentration, blood tests are considered the most accurate. However, a breath test is more useful to police officers who are trying to establish probable cause to arrest someone for driving while intoxicated. It is more difficult to get a suspect to give a blood sample, and the results are not available until the blood has been taken to a lab for testing. By contrast, a breath test may be as simple as the subject breathing into a portable device, and officers can obtain immediate results in the field. Drivers who are stopped on suspicion of DWI should be cautious about agreeing to a breath test, even if they have had little or nothing to drink. There are several reasons that a breath test may give an inaccurate reading, leading to your arrest:
Equipment Errors: The breath test device, commonly called a breathalyzer, must be periodically calibrated to ensure that its readings are accurate. When a breathalyzer is used frequently, its sensors can become saturated, causing readings to be inaccurately high. Law enforcement cannot know whether the equipment has been affected in this way unless they check the device on a regular schedule.
Software Errors: While the hardware collects the breath sample, the software interprets the sample to determine a BAC level. Seemingly reliable software can have glitches or bugs that affect the readings. This is more likely to happen if the law enforcement organization is using an older and outdated software system.
Nonalcoholic Substances: A breathalyzer can mistake other substances for alcohol, causing an artificially high BAC reading. These substances may include mouthwashes, breath fresheners, and acetones that are present in the breath of diabetics. Your breath can also be contaminated if you have recently inhaled gasoline, glue, paint or thinner.
Residual Alcohol: The recent presence of alcohol in your mouth will create a reading that is higher than your actual BAC. Because of this, a police officer is required to wait and watch you for 15 minutes before giving a breath test to make sure you have not consumed any alcohol, burped or vomited. Failing to do so makes the results unreliable.
Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney
It is advised that you refuse a breath alcohol test during a DWI stop. If you did submit to the test, a San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can review the test process and dispute the results during your case if there is a good reason to believe that they are inaccurate. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-726-5625.
A 64-year-old woman in Canada was recently arrested for refusing to submit to a breath test after a police officer stopped her for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Police suspended the woman’s driver’s license for 90 days and impounded her vehicle. However, the woman claims that she did not refuse the test but was unable to complete it due to a chronic lung disease. The woman has a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which restricts her breathing ability. When the woman could not sustain her breath long enough to give a sample, the officer assumed that she was purposefully not complying. Drivers suspected of DWI should inform officers of health conditions that may affect the outcome of a sobriety test.
Breath Test Accuracy
Breath and blood tests are the most common ways for police officers to determine whether a DWI suspect has a blood alcohol concentration greater than the legal limit. Officers commonly use breath tests first because they are cheaper and easier to administer. However, they are also less accurate than blood tests because:
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.