If I Failed the DWI Breath Test, Am I Automatically Guilty?

At trials and hearings, Wake County prosecutors use police Breathalyzer techs to authenticate the breath test results. These techs try to dazzle the jury with talk of fuel cells and electrochemical conversions. But these technicians never say that today’s Breathalyzer, with all its bells and whistles, is basically a miniaturized version of the 1950s Drunk-O-Meter.

Furthermore, as one can tell by the name, the Breathalyzer does not measure blood alcohol level, which is the legal standard in North Carolina and most other states. Instead, the Breathalyzer measures breath alcohol level and uses that figure to estimate the defendant’s BAC level.

The combination of ancient technology and the extra scientific step leaves the Breathalyzer vulnerable to some serious problems. A Raleigh DWI lawyer can use these flaws to discredit the Breathalyzer results.

Breathalyzer Test Issues

The following issues may cause the jury to question the Breathalyzer results, especially in .08, .09, and other borderline cases. And, a Raleigh DWI lawyer only needs to create reasonable doubt in these cases.

  • Improper Calibration: Officers can only use federally-approved Breathalyzers that have been properly maintained. Fancy Breathalyzers, like the ones police officers commonly use in Raleigh, have lots of moving parts and require lots of maintenance.
  • Mouth Alcohol: Police officers must observe defendants for at least fifteen minutes prior to the test. Why? If the defendant burps, belches, or vomits, that act floods the mouth with ethanol particles. These excess particles skew the BAC estimate. Many times, police officers either completely ignore this observation period or do not watch the defendant the whole time.
  • Lack of Training: Breathalyzers are a little like smartphones. They all have different operating systems and functions. So, if the officer was not properly trained on the model used during the arrest, the test results may be questionable.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain people, such as diabetics and smokers, have high levels of ketones in their blood. Since the Breathalyzer registeres these particles as ethanol, the BAC estimate may be inflated.
  • Non-Alcohol Substances: Cough syrup, mouthwash, and other consumer products contain alcohol. If the defendant used any such products in the hours prior to the test, the test could be wrong.

To drive home these flaws to the jury, many Raleigh DWI lawyers partner with degreed chemists, or at least chemistry students. These individuals have better credentials than Breathalyzer technicians who learned everything they know at police-sponsored seminars.

To get an aggressive Raleigh DWI lawyer on your side, contact Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law. Fill out the form below or call us at (919) 845-6688.