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Inaccurate breath test results can create penalties for lawful drivers

Over the last two or three decades, much of the emphasis on traffic safety and enforcement has been built around raising awareness-and penalties-when it comes to driving under the influence. While each state has its own mix of requirements and penalties, one feature that is present nationwide is the use of the breath test as law enforcement's go-to measurement of intoxication-at least in the field. In most states, with the exception of South Dakota, it is even the preferred evidentiary measurement for intoxicated driving. What if the breath tests are less accurate than they are represented to be, though?

Why breath tests can be inaccurate

According to Alcohol Problems and Solutions, the central claim of most breath test devices is that they accurately measure ethanol in the breath, which is why it was easy to win over support for them. The main problem is that they do not only detect ethanol, they also detect molecules that are similar in structure. That can include a wide range of compounds, many of which are present when people have certain medical conditions, like acetone.

In another article on the site, the same source discusses how the specific group of compounds related to alcohol, called the methyl group, can all be detected by breath tests under the right circumstances. This is a problem because between 70 and 80 percent of the compounds in human breath at any time are in the methyl group. This means it is quite possible for those units to register inaccurate results.

Should you refuse a test?

All this information might lead you to the conclusion that you should refuse to take a breath test if you are suspected of drunk driving. That would be a dangerous mistake, though, because Maryland's implied consent statute provides harsh penalties for drivers who refuse to take those tests. The wiser course of action is to remember the following steps:

  • Comply with any required tests, including follow-up tests if you are arrested.
  • Immediately request an attorney for your case.
  • Discuss with the attorney your options, including any reasons you have to believe your breath test was incorrect.

A lawyer with DUI experience will understand the various alternatives to breath-only testing and why they are advisable, as well as the full range of legal options open to you. From there, your attorney will help you make a solid case that provides you with your best possible defense in the event that your case goes further.

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