What are your options for challenging breathalyzer test results?

If you have been arrested and charged with alleged drunk driving, you may feel backed into a corner. You may ask: Do I have any legal options other than a potential plea deal? You may believe that the evidence against you is too strong.

What many DUI defendants fail to realize, however, is that evidence is not always as solid as it seems; particularly when it comes to field sobriety tests and breathalyzer test results. These tests are only as accurate as the officer conducting them and the equipment used. Both can be challenged.

In today's post, we'll focus on breathalyzer test results. In California, as in the rest of the country, a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent is considered legally drunk. If the breathalyzer shows a reading at or above 0.08 percent, suspects can generally be convicted under the state's "per se" laws, meaning that a conviction could be secured without additional evidence.

Breathalyzer test results are compelling pieces of evidence, but they are not always accurate. There are two common arguments used to invalidate test results. The first is that the breathalyzer device was inaccurate because it has not been adequately maintained and calibrated.

Each testing device is supposed to be serviced and calibrated on a regular basis. Your attorney may subpoena the records to see if there were discrepancies in calibration or maintenance.

The second argument is that the test results were skewed because the officer administered the test incorrectly. Police officers must be trained in how to properly administer tests, including waiting a certain period of time before asking the suspect to take the breathalyzer test. If the suspect has recently been eating, vomiting or drinking other liquids, it could skew the results of the test. Also, any residual alcohol left in the mouth could result in a BAC reading that is too high.

The details of a DUI traffic stop are crucial. If the officer made a mistake in initiating the traffic stop, administering tests or using a faulty breathalyzer device, these problems could invalidate the results of any tests the suspect took.

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