Breathalyzer Problems Means You May Not Have Blown It

Picture of Albert Quirantes, Esq.

Albert Quirantes, Esq.

If you’ve been pulled over in South Florida under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you’ll likely be introduced to a device known as a breathalyzer. The officer will ask you to breathe into this machine in order to determine whether your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit in Florida, which is .08 for most drivers. 


If that test result is higher than the limit, you’ll probably be arrested and charged with DUI. Since breathalyzer results are often the key piece of evidence used by prosecutors seeking a DUI conviction, you might think that blowing higher than .08 means that you’ve blown any chance of defending yourself against the charges against you.


But you’d be wrong. Because breathalyzers are often wrong. Some studies have suggested that breathalyzers are inaccurate almost 50% of the time. A skilled Florida DUI defense lawyer will know how to challenge the accuracy and admissibility of improper breathalyzer results, landing a big blow to the prosecution’s case and increasing the chance of a positive outcome for you.

A breathalyzer is a complicated, sensitive, and intricate machine. Like all machines, however, they don’t always work as they are supposed to. They are not always used properly by the officers administering a breath test. They don’t take into account factors other than alcohol consumption that could lead to a high BAC result.

By: Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Albert Quirantes

Four of the most common problems with the accuracy of breathalyzers – problems that your DUI defense lawyer may be able to use to exclude the results from evidence in your case – include:


• Improper calibration or cleaning: A breathalyzer works by calculating the amount of ethanol in your breath. The accuracy of these calculations can depend on whether the machine was clean and how recently the machine was recalibrated after previous uses. If the breathalyzer wasn’t cleaned and calibrated shortly before your test, its measurement can be off by as much as .03 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of your breath. Additionally, the machine will give false readings if not adjusted or recalibrated to account for surrounding air temperatures.These failures to properly maintain the machine can be more than enough to register a result above the legal limit even if you are actually below it. –failures that could mean the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. 
• “Mouth Alcohol and External Contaminants. We all have natural “mouth alcohol.” It is present when you burp, belch, or bring up some air from your stomach. Air from the stomach has a much more alcohol in it than deep lung air, so mouth alcohol coming from the stomach can dramatically distort the breathalyzer test results. So too can acid reflux for similar reasons. Additionally, there are many other external contaminants that can add to the presence of alcohol in a breathalyzer result, including smokeless tobacco, asthma inhalers, cough syrup, mouthwash, or blood in the mouth from gingivitis or gum disease.
• Breathing Patterns. The breathalyzer takes its measurement from one breath; therefore how you breathe could affect your blood alcohol reading. For example, holding your breath can significantly increase the BAC number on the machine. On the other hand, hyperventilating or taking very deep breaths can reduce your breath alcohol concentrations.
• Lack of Training. Breathalyzers, as noted, are complicated devices. If they are used improperly, they will simply not be accurate or reliable. Florida police officers who administer breathalyzer tests are supposed to have been trained in the proper use of the devices. If they have failed to receive or follow their training, that could be a basis for challenging the accuracy of the test results.

The bottom line is that a breathalyzer result which shows you to be above Florida’s legal limit isn’t the end of your case – it’s really just the beginning.  A South Florida DUI attorney will understand how to call those results into question and use any mistakes or failures by police as a basis to fight and hopefully defeat the charges against you. 


Albert Quirantes: Your Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer


For over 27 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida, including those accused of DUIWith his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.


Increase your knowledge! If you want to know more about how to resolve the problems you face when charged with a criminal offense in Florida, then you can follow Miami Criminal Attorney Albert Quirantes on FacebookTwitter, or Google+


If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, please call us today at (305) 644-1800 or fill out our online form to arrange for your free, confidential initial consultation. We look forward to assisting you.


If you have any questions about this article or any criminal accusation, call Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Albert Quirantes at: 305-644-1800 or visit our homepage for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions to our office.

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