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Are Breathalyzer Tests Accurate?


When most people think about having to take a “breathalyzer” test, they think of someone being pulled over because the police suspect that they are driving while impaired (DWI) with alcohol. The test administered at the side of the road is just one of the many field sobriety tests at law enforcement’s disposal. A breathalyzer test is used to detect the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a person. In North Carolina, a BAC of .08 or more is above the legal limit and can result in a DWI charge.

Types of Breathalyzer Tests

State law requires that a person who is arrested for a DWI must submit to chemical analysis to determine a person’s BAC. Usually, this chemical analysis comes in the form of a breathalyzer test. While most individuals know what a breathalyzer test is, they do not realize that there are two different types of breathalyzer tests. When law enforcement pulls over a vehicle for a suspected DWI, often they will administer a portable breath test (PBT). This test is different than the breathalyzer test that is administered at the police station following an arrest. As mentioned above, the portable breathalyzer test is a type of field sobriety test that can be administered when a person is suspected of driving while impaired. However, there is no requirement that a person submit to field sobriety tests. If a person refuses to take the PBT, it is almost certain that they will be arrested for a DWI and required to take the test at police station as required by state law. Refusing results in revocation of a driver’s license for one year.

Accuracy of Breathalyzer Test

Whether due to fear of losing their license, or in an effort to prove there is no impaired driving occurring, many people submit to the breath test, either on the side of the road or at the police station. Much like everything in the world, there is no guarantee that the results will be 100 percent accurate. There are many factors that can skew the results of a breathalyzer test.

  1. Human Error: the person conducting the test can administer the test wrong or read the results wrong
  2. Machine Failure: the breathalyzer machine can malfunction
  3. Differences in Body Metabolism: alcohol is metabolized by the body differently in everyone. Height, weight, and overall size can affect a BAC

Contact Us Today for Help

Inaccurate readings or administration of a breathalyzer test can have disastrous consequences in a DWI criminal case. Even though there is the potential for inaccurate results following a breathalyzer test, they are admissible against a defendant. If you have been charged with a DWI in North Carolina, you need an attorney that will fight for you. The dedicated and experienced criminal defense attorneys at Hauter Law Firm, PC know that a tiny error can have a devastating impact on one’s future, and freedom. Attorney Hauter is a former prosecutor with inside knowledge of how DWI cases are handled and prosecuted. Choose the attorney who can use this knowledge to present the best defense possible. Contact us today for a consultation.


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