If there is one device or object that has become synonymous in people's minds with driving under the influence, it is likely to be the portable breath testing device. These hand-held units have become almost ubiquitous for law enforcement, along with their larger and more rigorous counterparts housed in police stations around the country. As more data is gathered on their operation and use, it's becoming apparent that they are not as accurate as was once believed.
Why breath tests give inaccurate results
Alcohol Problems & Solutions discusses a range of ways that breath testing devices wind up giving inaccurate results, but they all boil down to a few common factors:
- Exposure to chemicals that are similar in structure to ethanol (methyl group compounds)
- Uncommon health conditions and circumstances
- Improper administration of the test
It's worth noting here that uncommon health conditions cause inaccurate readings for the same reasons that solvents and other methyl group compounds do. In fact, out of the 100 or so compounds that make up your breath, 70 to 80 are likely to be methyl group compounds, so it does not take a lot to upset this balance in ways that can lead to a breath test registering a false positive.
How your personal hygiene products contribute to inaccurate readings
When your personal hygiene products introduce methyl group compounds to your immediate surroundings, they can influence the results of subsequent breath tests. This can happen in a variety of ways. The most common is by the use of something like mouthwash that introduces not only small amounts of alcohol, but also other methyl compounds to your mouth. That rarely affects a breath test, though. That can leave innocent drivers exposed to charges and possibly even penalties, which is why it is important to talk to a DUI lawyer soon if you are charged.
Less common forms of exposure that are more likely to stick around and cause problems include:
- Use of paints or solvents prior to operating a vehicle
- Exposure to the same environmentally, even if you do not come into direct contact with them
- Foods that can metabolize into substances like acetone, including some cured and processed foods
- Exposure to solvents and other methyl group compounds through the exposure to aerosol products, perfumes and other products that rely on these compounds to deliver their desired effects
If you have been charged with DUI in Texas, you need to retain an attorney within 15 days to stop the automatic suspension of your license. That also gives you the opportunity to discuss your breath test outcomes with your lawyer, who can better advise you about how to avoid unfair consequences caused by bad breath tests.