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Ban on breathalyzers: a reminder of their unreliability

Controversy has dogged the breathalyzer ever since an amateur chemist invented the device in 1954. Faulty readings convinced some courts to bar prosecutors from using results against people accused of driving under the influence. Authorities in the Great Lakes region are now investigating whether one manufacturer broke the law to cover up glitches.

Colorado police use the Intoxilyzer 9000 to measure motorists’ blood-alcohol content (BAC). Michigan uses the DataMaster, which has caused a mega mess. State Police there ordered officers to stop using sanctioned breathalyzers while it targets the device maker for allegedly falsifying documents after the agency found “widespread” discrepancies in the machine’s calibrations.

If you get pulled over

Colorado’s expressed consent law means every licensed driver already has agreed to breath or blood testing within two hours after the police arrest them for suspected drunk driving. Prosecutors might have a harder time proving you were driving under the influence (DUI) if they cannot show an illegal BAC of 0.08.

But you do not have to take a breath test when an officer pulls you over. Officers can still investigate you for a DUI and use other evidence to arrest you:

  • Poor driving:Any traffic violations such as ignoring red lights, not using turn signals or swerving can get you pulled over.
  • Personal observations: The odor of alcohol on your breath, slurred speech or glassy eyes may signal to an officer that you are intoxicated.
  • Confession:Admitting you had “one or two beers” is a factor an officer typically includes in their arrest report.
  • Asleep at the wheel:Being slumped over at an intersection with the car running can be circumstantial evidence you drove there while impaired.

Refusing a breath or blood test after your arrest in Colorado could result in having your license suspended for nine months or more. You might also have to pay a fine to have your license reinstated. Refusal is your choice, but it also means you could face more serious DUI charges.

Scrutinize breathalyzer evidence

Prosecutors may try to use your post-arrest refusal as evidence against you in court proceedings. But it’s worth remembering that breathalyzers are notoriously unreliable.

If you’re facing drunk driving charges, it’s worth consulting with an attorney experienced in DUIs about your case. They can help you build a solid legal strategy that challenges breathalyzer evidence – and holds authorities to the burden of proving that a crime was committed.

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