Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan - Anchorage Criminal Defense Lawyers
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How Accurate is the Breathalyzer?

DWI Lawyer Alaska

If you have been stopped anywhere around Anchorage by police officers and they suspect you of DUI, you may be requested to accompany them to the nearest police station for a blood alcohol test. Many people assume that if it gets to this point they are confronted by a technically accurate test of their alcohol levels. This is not necessarily the case as the usual breathalyzer used by police in Anchorage is not necessarily accurate.

A DUI charge often relies on the evidence provided by a breathalyzer. However, your case can be dismissed if it can be shown that the breathalyzer results were unreliable. Prosecutors must be able to demonstrate ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that you had been driving while intoxicated. An experienced criminal defense attorney will make sure that results from the breathalyzer used are carefully examined to determine whether the results have any validity at all.

Why a breathalyzer’s results may be invalid

There are several ways that prosecutors can allege that you were DUI. If you are stopped while driving, police may suspect that you have been drinking. They may ask you to complete a field sobriety test. You do not have to agree to these and many attorneys actually suggest that it is inadvisable to do so. Field sobriety tests are often carried out in conditions that make it hard to satisfy the criteria. The test results are often subject to police officers’ subjective judgment.

A mobile breath test is also not usually valid in court because of its lack of reliability, but a positive result may be sufficient for police to detain you and take you to the nearest police station for further tests and questions. The most common test at a police station is the measurement of your blood alcohol concentration or BAC. This is a bit misleading, because it is rare for a sample of your blood to be actually taken.

Far more common, and the reason for the doubt about how accurate the results are, is the use of a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer takes a sample of your breath and by extrapolation calculates an estimate of your blood alcohol concentration. Note, this is not a direct measure of how much alcohol you have in your blood and is also not a measure of how much alcohol you actually had in your blood at the time you were driving. It is an estimate, not a true scientific measurement.

Breathalyzer errors can mean a DUI charge is dismissed

A DUI conviction depends on evidence that you were intoxicated when you were driving on a public highway. One of the most important pieces of evidence, although not the only one, is that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was above a critical amount at the time you were driving. For most non commercial adult drivers in Alaska, this is 0.08%. This means that if your breathalyzer test shows that the estimate of your BAC was above 0.08% you will probably be automatically charged with DUI.

Breathalyzers, of course, do not actually measure your blood alcohol content. They measure the amount of alcohol in your breath. There is a standard calculation used which is only an estimate of what this might mean for the amount of alcohol in your blood. The figure can be wildly, or just mildly, inaccurate. For example, the machine used must be calibrated regularly. It must be used by a trained officer. It must be cleaned properly between tests. The amount of time between the time you were last seen driving and the time you were tested must be taken into account. Some medical conditions or medications that you have been taking can introduce artificial readings that must be taken into consideration.

All of these factors above can make evidence for a DUI invalid. However, unless you have an experienced and determined criminal defense attorney, it is highly unlikely that you would ever know just how inaccurate a particular breathalyzer was when it was used on you. An attorney can request to see the records that should show cleaning and calibration and ask to see evidence that the officer who used the machine was trained to use it.

You cannot be charged for DUI in Alaska unless there is sufficient proof that you were driving while intoxicated. Many people are charged with DUI every month who do not question how accurate the breathalyzer was that was used to measure their BAC. A DUI charge is a criminal offense and once you have been convicted it can affect your life and family for a very long time.

Contact the Law Offices of Dattan Scott Dattan if arrested for DUI in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.

 

 

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Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan

2600 Denali Street, Suite 460
Anchorage, AK 99503
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