Can you trust the machine that measures your BAC?

Your recent arrest for driving while intoxicated may have been a startling wakeup call. Perhaps you are in the habit of driving home after having a beer or two, and you never thought you were legally impaired. Nonetheless, the results of your breath test showed your blood alcohol concentration to be .08, which, according to Louisiana's per se laws, is all that is necessary for authorities to presume you are impaired.

What you may not realize is that the test police administer to obtain the measure of your BAC may not always be accurate. If officers have encouraged you to accept the consequences for your offense simply based on your breath test, you may wish to have a legal opinion before you take any further steps.

Faulty results are not uncommon

You are under no obligation to participate in field sobriety tests or even a portable breath test police may request at the site of your arrest. However, once you are under arrest and taken to the police station, implied consent laws require you to comply with a BAC test. An officer may ask you to submit to a breath test using a much more sophisticated machine than the portable device. Despite the size and sophistication, there are plenty of opportunities for this device to supply a false reading, including:

  • You have smoked, eaten, burped or vomited, and the officer did not wait the required time before administering the test.
  • The officer did not follow police protocol or the instructions provided by the machine's manufacturer.
  • The person administering the test did not receive adequate training or certification to perform the test.
  • The device is not a brand approved for use by law enforcement.
  • The person doing the test did not verify the results with a second test.
  • The second test did not provide a result within .2 of the first test.

The most common reason for faulty BAC results is that police do not perform regular maintenance and calibration on their machines. If your attorney can obtain records from police, showing irregular or improper maintenance and calibration, your defense may begin with the unreliability of your BAC test results.

Because a DWI conviction -- even a first offense -- can have serious and long-term ramifications for you, building a strong defense is critical. Seeking sound advice from the earliest part of the legal process may make a difference in the outcome of your case.

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