By the end of 2015, the Intoxilyzer 5000 will be replaced by the new and “improved” Intoxilyzer 9000. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has conducted tests on both the Intoxilyzer 9000 and its predecessor and has concluded that the machines are accurate at determining an individual’s blood alcohol content.
However, these tests assume ideal testing conditions, a perfectly healthy, average-sized test subject, and a skilled test administrator. In reality, we at the Howard Law Group knows that testing conditions are not always ideal, and human beings are not one-size-fits-all. We also know that not all test administrators are experienced, and that even skilled operators make mistakes. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that there are factors that can result in flawed breath test results.
Factors That May Cause An Inaccurate Breathalyzer Result
Residual mouth alcohol is one of the most common causes of a false positive result. Many things can cause residual mouth alcohol, including most mouthwashes, breath sprays, and cough syrups. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains that after a person takes a drink, some of the alcohol remains in the mouth tissues. If the person exhales soon after drinking, the breath sample will pick up some of this leftover mouth alcohol. In this case, the breath sample will contain an additional amount of alcohol and the test result will be higher than the true BAC. Mouth alcohol remains in the mouth for roughly 15-20 minutes before dissipating.
Mouth alcohol can also be present for reasons other than a recent alcoholic drink. Chewing gum and dental appliances may retain alcohol. Some asthma inhalers contain alcohol. Further, if a person throws up prior to taking a breath test, they may have elevated mouth alcohol levels because the contents of the stomach are aspirated into the breathalyzer.
This is where user error on the part of the police officer conducting the test may come into play. Law enforcement officers are instructed to make sure that a DUI suspect has not had any alcohol for at least 15 to 20 minutes before administering a breath test. If the officer fails to comply with this 20-minute waiting period, mouth alcohol may still be present and may affect the results of the test. Also, a a police officer should instruct a DUI suspect to dispose of gum, and should note any medications.
Many medical conditions can artificially inflate breath test results. Diabetes is one such medical condition. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that diabetics can have acetone levels hundreds and even thousands of times higher than that of other people. Because the Intoxilyzer machine determines an individual’s BAC by identifying ethyl alcohol, and the machines cannot distinguish between acetone and ethyl alcohol, high acetone levels can create a falsely high reading on a breath test. Studies have also shown that low carb, high fat, high protein diets can spike acetone levels as well.
An individual who suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD is also at particular risk of having an inflated breath test reading. GERD causes the contents of a person’s stomach to flow back up the digestive tract. This would include any undigested alcohol in the stomach, which could then affect breath test results when stomach contents contaminate the breath sample.
Even simple burping can interfere with the Intoxilyzer. Burping causes the gasses from your stomach to rise into a person’s esophagus and mouth. Depending on when the individual drank his last alcoholic beverage, the contents of these gases can contain alcohol and a breath test may pick up on this alcohol.
Environmental factors can also affect breath test results. For example, if a person is exposed to acetone at work (this happens most commonly with painters), they may have acetone in their system, which, as discussed above, may inflate breath test results. Alternatively, an Intoxilyzer mouthpiece contaminated by alcohol from a prior use may create an unreliable result.
You should never assume that you will be convicted of a Georgia DUI regardless of the reading on a breath test. It is very important to look for all potential defenses including that the how the appearance of the accused does not match up with a person who has registered the alleged reading on the breathalyzer.
If you or someone you know has been arrested on a Georgia DUI. Contact the Howard Law Group ASAP, so we can discover how your DUI Arrest was done.