Breathalyzer Tests in Orlando DUI Cases
Don't Be Convicted on Faulty Evidence
Under our state's DUI law, Florida Statutes §316.193, you can be convicted of driving under the influence in either one of two ways: if your normal faculties are proven to be impaired, or if the alcohol concentration of your breath or blood is found to have been at or above .08 while you were driving. A conviction for this second type, which is also known as a rebuttable presumption, is often based on evidence which appears to be scientific and irrefutable but which is often anything but that. Given that you cannot legally be convicted of a crime until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be possible to clear your name of the charges by invalidating the evidence in the case against you.
The breath testing equipment used by police officers during investigations for drunk driving, typically referred to as breathalyzers, make it possible for the officer to gather evidence that which would otherwise be available. Without a breathalyzer, the officer either has to use field sobriety tests or a blood test to prove that the suspect is over the legal limit, which poses a dilemma: field sobriety tests such as the one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn are notoriously subjective and subject to error, and can often be defeated as courtroom evidence with ease, while securing a blood test may take longer than the officer is willing to wait in order to preserve the evidence. A breath test can usually be performed quickly by using either a handheld device or a machine at the police station.
A breathalyzer does not actually measure your blood alcohol concentration, it estimates the figure based on correlations between breath alcohol and BAC. When a person drinks, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, and as blood passes through the tissues of the lungs it evaporates and subsequently appears in the air that is exhaled. Therefore, a driver with alcohol in the bloodstream should have detectable alcohol in the breath. Unfortunately for the reliability of the test-and fortunately for you when you have to fight DUI charges-this is not the only way that the machine can register a positive.
What Makes a Breathalyzer Unreliable
The performance of a breathalyzer depends on the precise calibration of the equipment, and even the slightest errors in the equipment can produce a false positive. We can subpoena the maintenance and calibration records of the machine on which you tested, possibly using them as evidence that the equipment was not properly tuned to deliver entirely reliable test results.
When you drink beer, wine or liquor, there will usually be a certain amount of alcohol residual in your mouth, which is capable of causing the machine to register a positive reading. The breathalyzer only analyzes the air which is breathed into it, and obviously does not distinguish between alcohol from the lungs and from the mouth. Even a single drink, which would not necessarily cause you to have a BAC above .08, could provide sufficient mouth alcohol for you to fail the test. In addition to alcohol from drinks, many breath mints and mouth washes contain alcohol, while other factors could also cause a false reading such as acid reflux or diabetes, which causes the body to produce acetone, a substance which is chemically similar to ethanol.
These are only two of the most common examples of the problems involved in using breathalyzer test results as legal evidence. There are other possible issues, such as machine errors caused by radio frequency interference from the police officer's radio unit, mistakes on the part of a police officer who is not properly trained to use the machine, the inherent margin of error in the equipment-which has been estimated to be as great as 15%-and even the fact that the test is normally performed at the police station approximately one hour after the arrest. If a breathalyzer test forms the primary evidence in your case, an attorney from Parks & Braxton, PA is ready to conduct an investigation and search for a way to defeat the charges.