For Virginians and people across the United States, there may be an automatic mental link between a drunk driving charge and a breath test. This is generally known to be a basic part of an investigation. After a law enforcement officer makes a traffic stop for a potential DUI, one of the foundational parts of the case will be the breath test. This is used to determine the blood-alcohol content of the driver and can be a significant piece of evidence as the case moves forward. Many, however, do not even consider the possibility that the test results could be inaccurate. Now, this issue is garnering scrutiny and could be part of a defense against DUI charges.

A New York Times investigation says that breath test devices are prone to inaccuracy and can be off by as much as 40%. The reporters came to their conclusions after discussing breath tests with law enforcement officers, scientists, lawyers and executives. The study determined that many people could have been convicted because of a testing device that was improperly calibrated, was not maintained as it should have been, or was used incorrectly. Often, police departments are not well-versed in maintaining these machines, are not vigilant about it, or use solutions that are home-brewed and tainted.

Another problem is that machine software might be programmed incorrectly. If a driver has used a breath mint, mouthwash, toothpaste or simply burped, it could hinder the results. There were certain machines that gave inaccurate results if the person given the test had a breath temperature that was above 93 degrees. Regardless of the unreliability, the tests are still part of the DUI investigative process and drivers who refuse these tests could face separate charges for that refusal. A blood draw is the most accurate way to measure a person’s blood-alcohol content, but breathalyzer machines are deemed faster and more efficient.

When arrested for DUI, drivers face a litany of possible penalties, including jail, fines, a driver’s license suspension and an ignition interlock device being installed on the vehicle. They can also face higher insurance rates and a blot on their driving record that can have a negative impact on their future. After a DUI arrest, it might be beneficial to call a law firm experienced in helping people avoid the worst potential consequences.