In my 30 years as a top-rated Rhode Island DUI attorney, I’ve seen it all. Every case is different, but I can say they all have one thing in common: Nobody ever plans on getting a DUI.
And since you never plan on this happening, getting pulled over for a suspected DUI/DWI can be terrifying. You’ll likely decide to follow whatever advice they can recall in that moment. For many people, this means refusing a breathalyzer test.
The urban legend of “always saying no to the breath test” has persisted for years. That’s why I put together this guide on the reliability of breathalyzer devices in DUI cases.
By the end of this article, you’ll know a complete truth and have a clear picture of how these devices can impact your case.
The prevalence of incorrect readings even resulted in a breathalyzer investigation by the New York Times. Between 2018 and 2019, judges in New Jersey and Massachusetts threw out over 30,000 breath tests due to errors.
There’s sadly no way to know just how many innocent people have been charged with DUI/DWI as a result of these issues. But the New York Times investigation also found results were wrong up to 40% of the time.
The reliability of breathalyzer tests depends on many factors. The device needs to be calibrated properly, first of all. The police officer must perform the test and operate the breathalyzer according to protocols. The presence of certain chemicals and/or health conditions can skew results, too.
So, the question of how reliable these tests are is a complex one. Let’s take a look at individual states to get a clear picture of how trustworthy breathalyzers really are.
Unfortunately, the only approved breathalyzers in Rhode Island are the Intoxilyzer brand. This is one of the breathalyzers investigated by the New York Times in the article I mentioned above. And like I said, those independent tests found an error margin of up to 40%.
This isn’t great news for Rhode Island motorists. Getting pulled over for a suspected DUI or DWI is bad enough. But knowing the supposedly accurate breathalyzer device may spit out an incorrect reading just adds more fear and stress.
What it comes down to is that many times, these devices aren’t properly maintained, calibrated, or cared for.
And as a Rhode Island DUI attorney with over 3 decades of experience under my belt, my number one goal is getting your case dismissed by demonstrating these inaccuracies.
As of 2021, most district attorneys in MA no longer rely on breathalyzer tests in DUI/DWI cases. This means they are instead relying on witness testimony and other field sobriety tests.
And did you know the state of Massachusetts excluded all breathalyzer tests administered between June 2011 and April 18, 2019? This move allowed thousands of people to request new trials.
Clearly, MA prosecutors and lawmakers see that breath tests aren’t the most reliable evidence.
In Connecticut, virtually all experts agree that one breath test isn’t sufficient. That’s why CT driving laws state that if you consent to a breath test, you’ll be given two tests at least 10 minutes apart.
You should also know that portable roadside breath tests usually aren’t admissible in court. It’s the tests issued at the police station that have the most weight.
One additional key piece of info is the type of breathalyzer used in CT. It’s one of the same types tested by the New York Times’ independent investigation. That means the margin of error for Connecticut breathalyzer devices can be up to 40%, as stated in their findings.
For New York DWI and DUI cases, breath tests are still commonly used as evidence by prosecutors. But as recently as 2021, there are cases where a defense lawyer proves the defendant’s breath test should be inadmissible in court.
At the same time, challenging breath test results in New York won’t always result in this outcome. There are also examples of a New York judge deciding to allow a breath test as evidence.
The good news is there’s now a clear precedent for determining whether breath test results in New York are admissible in court or not. This state has come a long way from the days of placing 100% trust in breathalyzers—and the police officers who operate them.
Yes, a breathalyzer can be calibrated wrong. In fact, breathalyzers require calibration at a specific cadence to stay in proper working order. So not only do these devices need to be set up before their first use—they need regular maintenance to stay accurate, too.
When a breathalyzer is calibrated wrong, your results may be inaccurate. The device can report a higher BAC (or blood alcohol level) than you actually have.
Frankly, there are several things which can cause inaccurate breathalyzer results. Software and/or hardware may be faulty. The police officer may not follow the proper steps to conduct the text. The device may have been altered in a way that doesn’t follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Issues like these are why prosecutors in certain states are relying less and less on breathalyzer results.
If you think there’s any chance your DUI breath test results are incorrect, I invite you to contact me right away. As a Rhode Island DUI/DWI attorney with over 30 years of experience, I know exactly how to move forward with your case.
There are certain steps we’ll take to determine the accuracy of your breath test results. And with my past experience as a state prosecutor, I understand the most efficient steps to take.
Facing DUI or DWI charges is hard enough for most people. And the potential risk of unreliable breath test results is huge. That’s why working with an aggressive and experienced Rhode Island Breathalyzer Refusal Lawyer like me is your best path forward.
I know these arrests don’t just happen during business hours, so I’m available 24/7/365. Just contact me right now at (401) 861-1155 for your FREE case evaluation.