There are several ways that human factors impact DUI breath tests reading, resulting in an erroneously high or low reading. Every jurisdiction has a mandatory observation period during which the police must observe a DUI suspect for a certain amount of time before a breath test may be administered. The observation period is important to the police. This makes sure the suspect does not put anything in their mouth to affect the breath test. Doing so can produce invalid readings.
Probably the most common factor to impact breath tests and produce invalid results is human error. The breath machine itself is not 100% reliable in detecting levels of alcohol. A certain margin of error for its results is already built in. When a breath test is improperly administered, the accuracy of the result is significantly discounted. Thus human error in administration of the test, maintenance and repair of the machine, as well as errors in blowing and breath pattern may significantly affect accuracy of the results.
Another very significant factor that affects breath test results, leading to false high readings, is diabetes. If you are diabetic, and you recently submitted or refused a breath test, be sure to tell your attorney immediately. Diabetics have unique and abnormal blood sugar and insulin levels that may produce ketones or acetone that a breath machine mistakes for ethyl alcohol. Additionally, diabetics may experience reactions from unbalanced insulin levels that result in physical characteristics that mirror signs of impairment - such as flushed face, slurred speech, dizziness, fruity smelling breath, etc. People with hypoglycemia may also have similar problems.
Listed below are human factors that impact DUI breath tests. If you have recently been arrested for DUI and think that your breath result may have been affected by one of the factors listed below, be sure to contact an experienced DUI attorney in your state, city or county. Be sure to describe in detail the testing conditions to your attorney, including your physical condition, any medications you were taking, your diet, and the environment you were in during your test administration.
Other Factors That May Affect Breath Test Results
- Belching or vomiting prior to testing
- Dental Adhesives
- Radio Frequency Interference (if the police had walkie talkies or radios on)
- Food ingestion prior to testing (bread has been found to cause the highest false reading)
- Acetone and acetaldehyde
- Industrial chemicals found in paint, paint thinner, cleaning solvents, petroleum products, cement and glue products
- Cleaning fluids
- Rubbing alcohol
- Methyl (contained in candles, incense, or oil lamps)
- Absorption rates (age, height, weight, body temperature, tolerance to alcohol can all affect how your body absorbs alcohol)
- Alcohol Partition Ratio
- Hematocrit (part of a complete red blood cell count)
The type of alcohol you consume and the amount of time that has lapsed since consumption will also affect the results of a breath test. Medications may also interfere with a breath test. If you submitted or refused a breath test, and experienced any of the factors listed above, be sure to discuss it with your lawyer.