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Are breathalyzers accurate?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2022 | Drunk Driving |

As the officer walks toward your vehicle, you may know that the traffic stop is about to come with questions about drinking. While you may not be sure if you are over the legal limit, the officer may ask you to submit to tests anyway.

During a drunk driving stop, an officer may ask you to perform a field sobriety test or take a breath test to determine if you have had too much to drink. However, there are times when breathalyzer results are not reliable.

Here’s what you should know about the reliability of breath tests and whether you are required to take one.

Calibration problems

There are a few components to a breathalyzer. When the machine does not receive proper maintenance or the officer does not perform the correct steps, the results can be inaccurate.

Ultimately, if an officer misses a step or does not keep the machine well-maintained, it could result in a higher reading.

Other factors

Machine failure is not the only issue that can come up with breath tests. Other factors can result in a falsely high blood-alcohol reading, such as:

  • Timing of the test
  • Medications or medical conditions
  • Exposure to chemicals, such as paint remover

A breath test reading over the legal limit does not create certainty of a conviction. A skilled professional can help you fight the charges against you.

Can I refuse it?

While some states make refusing a breath test a criminal offense, it is simply a traffic violation in Oregon. Although the traffic violation is inconvenient, it does not have the same impact as a potential criminal charge.

If you refuse the test, the officer will typically take your license and issue a temporary one. After your arrest, you will need to request a hearing, or you could risk your temporary license turning into suspended driving privileges.

Keep in mind that other circumstances could cause courts to take your refusal more seriously. Facing drunk driving charges can seriously impact your life and livelihood. You should talk to a knowledgeable attorney about your situation.