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Breath test results may be inconsistent

Several months ago in our Charleston DUI Law Blog, we discussed problems with the accuracy of breath tests, which measure blood alcohol content, in Washington, D.C. In that case, the breath tests were actually taken out of the field altogether when inconsistencies were reported with several of the devices.

Now, it appears Minnesota might also be having widespread issues with its breath test devices. According to a local newspaper, after several lawsuits targeted accuracy issues with the Intoxilyzer system, the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spent $1.7 million to purchase DataMaster DMT-G devices. And now, it appears that those aren't perfect either.

The new device is supposed to take two blood alcohol content measurements at once. One method uses fuel cell technology, and the other uses the more widely-used infrared technology. Last month, the bureau learned that there were issues with the fuel cell technology readings, and it shut off that part of the tests.

The kink has made many in the state question the reliability of the new breath test devices. Was the technology developed too quickly? Was it put into the field too quickly? Are more issues going to surface? Can these devices be trusted to give accurate blood alcohol test readings?

These are issues that area law enforcement and drunk driving attorneys will likely debate.

Here in South Carolina, we know that drivers often feel hopeless after registering a high number on a breath test. However, the results of these tests can sometimes be challenged. There are a variety of factors that can yield a misleading result on the DataMaster devices that Charleston law enforcement officers administer.

Among things that can throw off the results of a breath test are dentures, air bags, certain medications and instances of gastric reflux disease.

This is just one of many reasons why those facing drunk driving charges are often wise to seek experienced legal counsel in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Source: Star Tribune, "New DWI tester is called flawed," David Chanen, June 9, 2012

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