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Why DUI Breathalyzers Can’t Be Trusted

Posted On: December 21st, 2019   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
man holding breathalyzer

For the many Ohio motorists who are pulled over for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI) of alcohol every year, the encounter with police is a familiar one. The stop starts with a few questions, along with a request for your driver’s license and vehicle registration. Then, officers may request you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Depending on the outcome of this exchange, police may request that you take a breath test to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). At this point, you might assume that your fate is sealed and a conviction for drunk driving is imminent. However, you should be aware that DUI breathalyzers are notoriously and unacceptably flawed for a number of reasons.

At Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP, our Columbus OVI/DUI defense lawyers have seen first-hand how inaccuracies and mistakes in administering breath tests can lead to unjust results in a drunk driving case. The criminal justice community may tout their effectiveness in combatting alcohol-related offenses, but breathalyzer machines can’t be trusted. There may be options to fight the charges, so please contact our team to learn more about them. You can set up a free consultation at our Dublin, OH office by calling (614) 224-1500 today.

Reasons DUI Breathalyzers Produce Inaccurate Results

Police need a reasonable suspicion to pull you over and probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving, but there’s a higher legal standard to obtain a conviction. As such, prosecutors need solid, credible proof to show that you’re guilty of OVI/DUI in Ohio. The primary strategy for meeting this requirement is presenting the court with evidence that you’re driving while over the legal BAC limit, which is .08%. Scientific proof through chemical testing is viewed as the most reliable, whether through a blood, breath, or urine test.

However, while there are different options for DUI testing in Columbus, the most common is a breathalyzer. The device is relatively portable and blowing into it is less invasive than other methods. The problem is that many breathalyzers don’t properly perform the one task they’re designed to do: Obtain an accurate assessment of how much alcohol you’ve consumed. Defects in the machines or flaws in the process can lead to erroneous test results that adversely affect your drunk driving case. A breathalyzer cannot be trusted where the circumstances of the test reveal that:

  • Officials failed to test or conduct regular maintenance on breathalyzer machines as required by law;
  • Police didn’t comply with regulations on calibrating the devices, which can produce skewed results;
  • The breathalyzer warranty had expired, since manufacturers will only warrant their accuracy for a certain amount of time; or,
  • The official who administered the breathalyzer test didn’t have the proper certification or the credentials were out-of-date.

What an Inaccurate Test Means for Your Rights

Put simply, a flawed chemical test makes it more likely that you’ll be convicted of violating Ohio’s OVI/DUI laws. Even for a first-time drunk driving offense, you could face incarceration for DUI and fines ranging from $250-$1,000. From there, the penalties increase for subsequent convictions. For example:

  • If it’s your second OVI/DUI, your sentence could be a minimum of 10 days to one year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,500.
  • For a third-time drunk driving conviction, you’ll be incarcerated for at least 30 days and potentially up to a year.
  • You’ll be sentenced to a minimum of 60 days for a fourth OVI/DUI, and the judge may order up to one year. The fines increase significantly, ranging from $8,000-$10,000.

Of course, there are also consequences for your driver’s license, which involve an administrative proceeding instead of a criminal case. Depending on your history, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least six months. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to fight drunk driving charges and highlight the various inaccuracies or failures in DUI breathalyzer machines.

Implications Under Ohio’s Implied Consent Law

Based upon these failures with DUI breathalyzers, you might assume that you’re better off refusing to blow. Unfortunately, the scenario is a classic, unwinnable scenario. Ohio has implemented significant consequences for refusing a DUI test under the state implied consent law, wherein you agree to submit to chemical testing by virtue of accepting your driver’s license. The penalties also depend upon your history, but your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for at least one year. Keep in mind that refusing to blow is separate from a violation of OVI/DUI statutes, so you could be facing charges for both offenses.

Our Columbus OVI/DUI Defense Attorneys Fight for You

A flawed, inaccurate DUI breathalyzer is just one many potential defenses that may be available to fight drunk driving charges in Ohio. Our team at Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP reminds our clients that an arrest doesn’t equal a conviction, so there may be strategies to obtain a favorable outcome in an OVI/DUI case. For more information on your options, please call our Dublin, OH office at (614) 224-1500 to schedule a no-cost consultation.



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