Protecting Your Rights In Indiana Since 1915

What can cause a breath test to malfunction?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Police officers often rely on breath test devices to determine whether a driver is operating under the influence. A person who receives a reading over the legal limit may believe that an unfavorable verdict is inevitable.

However, like any other piece of equipment, breath tests are not infallible and can render inaccurate results. Drivers should be aware of the reasons that a breath test may malfunction.

Poor calibration and human error

If the operator of the device does not follow proper procedures or adequately instruct the individual taking the test, it can skew the results. Additionally, improper calibration of the equipment can lead to unreliable readings.

The administrator of the test must also ensure that external factors, such as environmental contaminants, will not interfere with the accuracy of the test. If the officer fails to do so, the reading might not hold up in court.

Certain types of food and acid reflux

Certain foods, especially those containing yeast or sugar, can lead to the production of ethanol in the mouth, potentially affecting the breath test results. Some individuals even suffer from gut fermentation syndrome, where the digestive tract produces an abnormal amount of ethanol.

Additionally, acid reflux can cause alcohol vapors from the stomach to rise into the esophagus and mouth, leading to a higher alcohol concentration in the breath sample than is present in the bloodstream. These factors can result in falsely elevated readings of blood-alcohol levels during breath testing.

Electronic interference from nearby devices

Interference can occur when electronic devices emit signals or electromagnetic waves that interfere with the operation of the breath testing equipment. For example, nearby cell phones, radios or other electronic devices can emit signals that disrupt the functioning of the breath test device, leading to inaccurate readings.

Additionally, environmental factors such as power lines or electrical equipment in the vicinity of the testing area can also contribute to electronic interference. Therefore, breath testing must occur in environments free from electronic interference to ensure the accuracy of the results.

A positive breath test is not necessarily conclusive evidence that a driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence. A closer investigation may yield information that proves that the device made an error.