Law enforcement officers have been using chemical breath tests as a way to establish impairment for decades. Given how common they have become, with devices even available to the public for use these days, many people wrongfully think that breath tests are totally accurate. However, there are many ways in which a breath test can potentially fail.
Drivers who did not consume alcohol, who have underlying medical conditions or whose alcohol level is far below the legal limit could wind up failing a test and getting charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) based solely on the improper functioning of a chemical breath test.
Knowledge about the shortcomings of these popular testing units is now becoming mainstream. The better you understand the potential issues with breath tests, the better prepared you’ll be to make a decision about defending yourself against a pending DWI charge.
Issues with breath tests have led to states no longer using them
Judges, prosecutors and most people who work for law enforcement aren’t scientists. Lab technicians and forensic specialists may have science degrees, but they may also wrongfully assume that chemical breath tests are accurate or even infallible.
Researchers and journalists have been looking into the shortcomings of chemical breath tests for quite some time. Defense attorneys have also learned that these devices can be problematic and have used that knowledge to help people push back against pending charges. The success in doing so has been so impressive that in some states, like Pennsylvania, judges have formally questioned breath tests.
As a result, Pennsylvania prosecutors no longer rely on the tests to prove impairment in court. Judges in other nearby states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, have been throwing out huge numbers of chemical breath tests.
You can still fight a charge even if you failed a breath test
People who get arrested after failing a chemical breath test might assume that they misjudged their own impairment or had a stronger drink than they expected. However, it’s equally possible that the testing unit malfunction and provided an inaccurate reading, making it look like the driver had more alcohol in their body than they actually did.
Just because there’s a chemical test doesn’t mean you can’t still defend yourself. Challenging the test results may be one way to push back against DWI charges and protect yourself from the consequences they carry.