Police rely heavily on tests to pin a number on the sobriety level of motorists. If the digits come out too high, then you could be in a lot of trouble. But just because a breathalyzer says you’re out of bounds, doesn’t mean it’s telling the truth.

Breathalyzers are one of several chemical tests police use to test blood alcohol content (BAC). Officers use your breath, urine and blood to check where you fall in regard to the legal limit. If you go over the .08 percent BAC, then you’re likely looking at a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. But just because the breathalyzer is a machine, doesn’t mean it’s giving you an accurate number.

Testing the limits

There are a number of ways the science behind the breath test may not add up:

  • Mechanical failure: Even though Georgia state law requires quality control and regular calibration, problems can still pop up that cause inaccurate readings. Police scanners working on certain radio frequencies may even alter the readings on a particularly sensitive machine.
  • Medical inhibitors: Certain health conditions can also contribute to the wrong numbers showing up on a screen. A breathalyzer may mistakenly label people over the legal limit if they have diabetes, they’ve been smoking or their gut naturally produces too much ethanol.
  • Outside chemicals: Anything ethanol-based can alter the reading. If you apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer shortly before a test, it could send your numbers out of acceptable limits. There is even ethanol in windshield wiper fluid, and close proximity could alter readings.

Just because a breathalyzer says that you’re breaking the law doesn’t make it so. Knowing that a test isn’t foolproof can largely alter how you approach your situation.