Drunk driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle with the operator’s ability to do so impaired as a result of alcohol consumption, or with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit. Breath tests are the most widely used method by law enforcement during DUI-Driving Under the Influence investigations to determine BAC.
Blood and urine tests usually require the sample to be collected by a nurse or other qualified person. Also, the person being tested may object to such invasive testing methods. These are only a few reasons why officers favor DUI breath tests as their preferred method.
Types of DUI Breath Tests Before and After an Arrest in Georgia
There are two different types of breath tests and both are done before an arrest is made. The first is referred to as a preliminary breath test (PBT). These test results can only be used as evidence in court to show the presence of alcohol was detected. This test usually occurs on the side of the road, after the initial stop.
The second test is administered by the state. After arrest, the driver is read an Implied Consent, which notifies the driver of consequences to refuse the test. To operate the breathalyzer machine, the operator must be certified and trained.
In DUI-DWI cases, the purpose of DUI breath testing to determine the concentration of ethyl alcohol. Similar principles apply for quantitative testing and rely on Beer’s law, which states the amount of infrared radiation absorbed by a substance in a sample is directly proportional to the concentration of the substance in the sample. So, in breath tests, the concentration of alcohol in a breath sample is determined by the quantity of infrared absorbed and the known frequencies.
Problems with DUI Breath Testing
Machine errors should be considered with DUI-DWI breath tests.
Improper calibration, or lack of routine maintenance and calibration, can cause invalid readings. Tests should be performed only by a person trained and certified to operate the breathalyzer machines. Even if the person is trained, operator errors could still occur.
Residual mouth alcohol can also lead to invalid readings. Exhaled air can absorb alcohol from your lungs AND the upper part of the mouth and throat. Some tobacco products and products containing menthol can lead to a higher concentration reading.
Interference can also occur if another substance present in your system has frequencies similar to ethyl alcohol such as acetone and gastro-esophageal reflux disorder.
These are just a few examples of how a DUI breath test could produce inaccurate results. Breathalyzer tests are going to be around for the foreseeable future due to their ease of use, low cost to implement, and they produce results on the spot. This allows for an expedited process and the police officer can effectively pursue additional DUI drivers.
Holding Breath and Ability to Breathe Can Affect the Test
Since breath is undefined in the statute, we have to assume that “breath” means the whole breath is inhaled and exhaled. If the legal level is determined by reference to the entire breath, alveolar air is only a portion of that breath. If alveolar air contains a higher concentration of alcohol than the whole breath, then a tested sample of alveolar air will give a false high reading of the whole breath required by the statute.
Holding your breath or breathing bad in theory can affect the results. Doing this is not an easy thing to accomplish. Without the officer seeing what you are doing, you have to hold your breath immediately
before the test. Odds are you will not be able to pull this one-off.
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