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Can Breathalyzer tests be inaccurate?

Drinking and driving is dangerous, and most drivers are aware of that. Some may keep their own Breathalyzers, so they can test themselves before they get behind the wheel. Can these machines be wrong, though? If yours can be wrong, does that mean an officer's Breathalyzer test could be inaccurate, too? The short answer is, "yes."

Some products used in everyday life can trigger a false positive on a breath test. For instance, certain cough syrups do contain alcohol that can be smelled on the breath for a short time after dosing. Cold medicine, some lip balms, and even mouthwash can trigger false positives and cause you to go through a full traffic stop or to have to take additional tests at the police station.

Any time someone drinks alcohol, it's absorbed into the lining of the mouth to a degree. While that won't register a false positive, per se, it can be misleading on the test. The alcohol on your breath may not correspond to the alcohol in your blood stream.

Before giving you a Breathalyzer test, the police should monitor you for at least 15 minutes. This is so they can look at how you're acting and give your body time to adjust. You may be asked to perform tests during that time, like walking in a straight line, which helps the officer assess your condition. Sometimes, they don't wait that long, and that can impact your test results. In fact, a burp can even throw off your test, making your results higher than they should be due to the release of alcohol. That's why you should question your Breathalyzer test; even if you've been drinking, there is a good chance that it was inaccurate. Your attorney can help you defend yourself if you feel you have been inappropriately charged.

Source: ABC 7 News, "Common items can cause breathalyzer failures," Caroline Tyler, accessed July 21, 2016

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