Are Breathalyzers Accurate?

July 17, 2018

A police officer who suspects you were driving while intoxicated has the authority to make an arrest if you show signs such as slurred speech, erratic driving or if a field sobriety test is flunked. You may also be given a breathalyzer test. This test, however, is not as accurate as a blood or urine test and breathalyzer test results have been questioned and successfully challenged in court. Most field-use portable breathalyzers rely upon semiconductor technology, which is not as accurate as the infrared or fuel-cell sensors that the larger and stationary machines use.

Under California law, you must undergo a blood alcohol concentration test if the police officer has probable cause to believe you were operating a vehicle while intoxicated. When a breathalyzer test given by an arresting officer comes back with flawed results, it can lead to an unjustified charge. An experienced Newport Beach DUI lawyer can then work with you to prove there was a faulty test result and reduce your offense.

How Much Is a DUI Fine in CA?

Based on the breathalyzer test results, the officer will either let you go or he will arrest you, impound your car and take away your driver’s license. After you’re released you will be required to appear in court and pay any associated fines and penalties. The current DUI ticket price is based on the severity of your offense and any defense you can present, such as having a prescription for a required medication.

How much the fine will cost you in California can range between $390 and $1,000 depending on your offense. If it’s your first offense, the DUI ticket price could be the minimum $390, but there can also be additional costs, such as those for attending a rehab program, court fees and reinstating your driver’s license. Paying fines, penalties and expenses is not always arguable, but you may still be able to contest the breathalyzer’s test results and reduce your charge.

How Do You Avoid a Conviction?

In California, a DUI charge does not necessarily mean you will be convicted of driving under the influence. With a knowledgeable attorney at your side, you could opt for a plea bargain and have your offense reduced to a wet reckless charge. This is basically reckless driving. To succeed, you must show that the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to prove you were drinking and driving, which would require a test result that shows a blood alcohol concentration level of at least .08.

When a police officer administers a breathalyzer test, proper procedures must be followed. Many testing devices also come with a margin of error of .01. This means that a result of .08 could be false.

Under What Circumstances Can a Breathalyzer Test Be Challenged?

If any of the following circumstances apply, your breathalyzer test result may not have been accurate and it can be effectively argued by an attorney:

  • There was a lack of probable cause, such as the officer not seeing you drive erratically or you did not display an appearance of intoxication.
  • The arresting officer was not properly trained in administering a breathalyzer test.
  • The lighting was too poor for the arresting officer to accurately read the test results.
  • It was less than one half-hour after you ate, or you ate more than usual.
  • Your breath was exposed to chemicals like mouthwash or fumes such as paint.
  • The officer who administered the test is not willing to testify in court.

Challenging the Results of a Breathalyzer Test

Being charged with a DUI in California does not mean that you are automatically guilty. It is, however, a serious offense that can result in expensive fines, license suspension or jail. Our knowledgeable and seasoned attorneys at The Ticket Clinic are here to help you contest your charge. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.