Are breath test results always reliable?

Anyone an officer has pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in South Carolina knows just how anxiety-inducing the thought of sobriety testing is. Most people participate in testing when asked because they feel that they have to. The truth is, you can refuse if you think you should. However, consequences may follow.

Consequences aside, the one reason you may want to consider refusing a breath test is that there is question regarding its accuracy. While there are those who tout breath tests as very reliable, many experts agree that is not actually the case.

Machine error

Here’s the thing: breath test devices can and do fail more often than you might think. This happens for various reasons, including:

  • Failure to maintain
  • Failure to calibrate
  • Failure to update software
  • Failure to check batteries

Over the years, several types of breath test devices have hit the market, all claiming to be better than the others out there. The truth is, though, they all have issues that can affect the accuracy of your test results.

Substances other than alcohol affect results

As you know, the purpose of breath tests is to calculate your blood alcohol concentration percentage. It will go up right after you drink and stay up for a while. It will also increase if you use or consume a number of other substances, including:

  • Alcohol-based mouthwashes
  • Certain cold medicines
  • Various smoking products
  • Some prescription drugs

If you fail a breath test and you know that you previously used a substance known to affect test results, it is best to let your legal counsel know right away. This information could prove helpful when fighting charges for impaired driving in a South Carolina criminal court. 

Other considerations

A few other things might affect your BAC results, such as:

  • Your gender
  • Your weight
  • If you ate before or while drinking
  • What you had to drink

Every person metabolizes alcohol differently. For example, a petite woman who drinks a couple of beers without eating anything prior will have a much higher BAC than an average-sized male who drinks the same number of beers without having food in his stomach. 

Defend yourself

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge because you failed an alcohol breath test, a conviction is not necessarily a guarantee. It may be possible to fight the test results if there is evidence supporting a claim that the results may not be reliable.