The truth and myths about breath tests

Our Ann Arbor readers probably know that there are several different ways to determine the blood alcohol content level of a suspected drunk driver. However, by and large the most common method used by law enforcement officials throughout America is the Breathalyzer test.

Even though these devices are commonplace now, many people still think that there are ways to trick the machines or somehow explain adverse test results. Sometimes defense attorneys are indeed successful in demonstrating that a specific test was conducted incorrectly by an arresting officer, or that a specific machine was not calibrated correctly, but, for the most part, the results of breath tests are almost universally accepted as accurate in courts throughout the country. The science behind the tests has been deemed reliable, so almost the only way to question the results is to point out some flaw in the procedure used by law enforcement officials, or in the machine itself.

Perhaps the most beguiling myth about breath tests is that a person can manipulate the results to show a lower BAC level, even if they have been drinking alcohol. The most common urban legend is probably that a person can put a penny in their mouth while submitting a sample for a breath test and the results will be clean. Others have postulated that eating onions or using mouthwash could alter the results as well. But, for anyone depending on one of these myths to be true in order to mask alcohol consumption, the reality is that none of these "remedies" has been shown to work.

The vast majority of Michigan residents who are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving will probably be asked to submit a sample for a breath test. One way or another, it is usually best to comply, because a breath test refusal will result in an automatic driver's license suspension.

Source: FindLaw, "BAC Test FAQs," accessed on July 30, 2014

Categories: Articles

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