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Are Breathalyzers always accurate?

If a law enforcement official stops you in New Jersey and believes you have been drinking, you can expect that he or she will probably request that you take a breath test in an attempt to get a better idea of your level of intoxication. Conducted using devices called Breathalyzers, breath tests almost always come into account when you face a drinking and driving charge, but are they always accurate? Not entirely.

According to, Breathalyzers require regular calibration and maintenance in order to work properly and emit accurate results. While a Breathalyzer that is not properly calibrated may lead to falsely elevated results, other outside factors, too, can do the same. For example, if you have blood or vomit in your mouth when you blow into the Breathalyzer, this can breed inaccurate readings, which can lead you to receive a drinking and driving charge even if your blood-alcohol content falls below the legal limit.

Most law enforcement officials know this, and they therefore wait a certain amount of time (often at least 20 minutes) after you vomit or have blood in your mouth before they try to re-administer the breath test. Electronic interference, too, has been shown to cause false Breathalyzer readings, and it can come from a number of sources, among them police radios, cellphone towers and so on.

If you are diabetic, it is important that you recognize that your health condition can also lead to falsely elevated Breathalyzer readings. If your body produces a significant level of ketones due to diabetes, this can lead to a spike in acetone, and Breathalyzers may pick up on the acetone, but mistakenly attribute its presence to alcohol consumption.

This information about factors that can throw off the accuracy of Breathalyzers is informative, but it is not a replacement for legal advice.

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Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.
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