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Reliability of BAC Tests: BAC Breath Test / Breathalyzer

Posted On: November 9th, 2017   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
BAC Breath Test

This is the second of a four-part series of blogs delving into the reliability of BAC tests commonly used by law enforcement officers in Ohio.

This blog considers the reliability of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) breath tests, or breathalyzers. Other BAC tests that will be considered in other blogs are the BAC blood test and the BAC urine test, or urinalysis. If any of these tests have been administered to you after a DUI traffic stop, you should contact an experienced Columbus DUI attorney right away. Call Luftman, Heck & Associates today at (614) 500-3836.

BAC Breath Test

The BAC breath test is the most common method used by police officers to estimate blood alcohol content. This test uses breathalyzers which are lightweight, portable breath analysis devices that provide a quick result in the field. Breathalyzers work by quantifying the level of alcohol that passes through the alveoli air sacs as blood runs through vessels within the lungs. The subject breathes into the device and expels the air that contains the traces of alcohol. These breathalyzer test results, in particular those resulting from fuel cell sensor breath tests, are generally considered accurate enough for admission as evidence in a DUI prosecution.

However, a negative aspect of these breathalyzer BAC tests in terms of reliability is that they do not differentiate or account for the different traits of persons – something that can affect the results. Instead, an average multiplier is applied to the calculated BAC reading on the test. This multiplier, which is 2,100, is referred to as a “partition ratio” due to the fact that the average amount of alcohol in a person’s breath has been determined to be 1/2100th of the level of alcohol in the same amount of blood.

However, a Supreme Court case entitled State vs. Brayman included testimony from a chemist who stated that this ratio can actually vary from 1/1600th to 1/3000th. Thus, knowledgeable Columbus DUI lawyers could potentially argue that a breath test produced inaccurate results due to its underlying “average” partition ratio assumption.

BAC tests using a breathalyzer are also vulnerable to human error and faulty equipment. These testing devices must be calibrated on a regular basis to help ensure accurate results. Certain physical characteristics of the person receiving a breathalyzer test can skew the test results and present a false reading – these include the ratio of red blood cells to blood plasma, the body temperature, the nature of the person’s diet, and the presence of breath fresheners.

Other surrounding environmental influences can also produce false breathalyzer BAC readings, including: gasoline, thinner, glue, and paint.

An Experienced Columbus DUI Lawyer Can Help You

BAC breath tests are not reliable. If you’ve been given a breathalyzer after being pulled over for a DUI, you may be able to fight any resulting charges. We can challenge the results of your BAC breath test or other chemical test and show that you were not, in fact, intoxicated.

Call Luftman, Heck & Associates at (614) 500-3836 to begin developing your defense.

I can FINALLY breathe easy now. I want to thank Mr. Bowen and all the attorneys that helped me with this case.

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