During a DUI arrest, one of the common methods used by police officers to determine a person's blood alcohol level is through a breathalyzer test. However, there are instances where the breathalyzer test produces a false positive result. A false positive occurs when the breathalyzer indicates the presence of alcohol in the blood, even when there is little to no alcohol or when the measured alcohol level is higher than the actual amount. Understanding what a false positive is, its potential causes, and how it can be used as a defense in a court case is crucial for individuals facing DUI charges. In this article, we will delve into the concept of a false positive breathalyzer test, explore the potential causes behind it, and discuss how it can be challenged as a defense strategy.
What is a False Positive Breathalyzer Test?
A false positive breathalyzer test is when the breathalyzer device indicates a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) than the actual alcohol content in a person's system. This can happen due to various factors, including technical issues with the breathalyzer device, physiological conditions, or external substances that can interfere with the accuracy of the test. When a false positive occurs, it can have significant implications for a DUI case, as it challenges the validity and reliability of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
Potential Causes of False Positive Results:
- Mouth Alcohol: One of the common causes of false positive breathalyzer results is the presence of alcohol in the mouth rather than the bloodstream. This can occur if an individual has recently consumed alcohol, used mouthwash, or had dental work done. The residual alcohol in the mouth can contaminate the breath sample and lead to an inflated BAC reading.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause regurgitation of stomach contents into the mouth. This regurgitation may contain alcohol from previous consumption, resulting in a false positive breathalyzer reading.
- Ketosis: Individuals following a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet may experience a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat for fuel. This process can produce acetone, a substance that breathalyzers can misinterpret as alcohol, leading to false positive results.
- Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes can produce acetone in the breath, similar to the ketosis scenario. Breathalyzer devices may not differentiate between alcohol and acetone, potentially leading to false positive readings.
Challenging a False Positive Breathalyzer Test:
If you believe you have received a false positive breathalyzer test result, it is crucial to consult with a reputable DUI lawyer or DUI attorney who specializes in challenging breathalyzer evidence. They can employ various defense strategies to contest the accuracy and reliability of the breathalyzer results, including:
- Calibration and Maintenance Records: Your attorney may request access to the calibration and maintenance records of the breathalyzer device used during your DUI arrest. Any irregularities, lack of proper calibration, or maintenance issues can cast doubt on the accuracy of the results.
- Officer Training and Procedure: Your attorney can examine whether the police officer administering the breathalyzer test was properly trained and followed correct procedures during the testing process. Any deviations or errors in the protocol can weaken the prosecution's case.
- Independent Expert Testimony: In some cases, your attorney may seek the expertise of independent forensic toxicologists or breathalyzer experts to challenge the reliability of the breathalyzer device used and provide an alternative interpretation of the test results.
- Cross-Examination of the Prosecution's Expert: During the trial, your attorney can cross-examine the prosecution's expert witness to challenge their conclusions, highlight potential sources of error, and cast doubt on the accuracy of the breathalyzer test.