What Is The Intoxilizer Margin Of Error?

by cbennett on October 16, 2012

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Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is considered a serious offense in the United States, so much so that the U.S. Government threatened to pull highway funding from states that didn’t recognize .08 percent as the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level for driving. Breathalyzers have become the common test for driver impairment throughout the country, and many people are convicted based on these machines’ results. The intoxilizer is a form of breathalyzer, and it, along with all other breathalyzers, may prove problematic.

The sad part is the fact that most people think failing a breathalyzer is an automatic conviction, so they often just take a plea agreement without a lawyer. This would likely occur far less if everyone knew the margin of error and possibility of inaccurate readings on these machines. There are several ways a lawyer can successfully defend his client on a DUI charge due to the sometimes inaccurate results of the breathalyzer.

Breathalyzer Margin of Error

Courts have consistently recognized and allowed for a margin of error of .01 percent in all breathalyzer machines. This, of course, is in perfectly working machines. This means that when a breathalyzer has had consistent routine maintenance, it will still be slightly inaccurate. A person who blows a .12 into one of these devices, for instance, will actually have a BAC of anywhere between .11 and .13. This is actually one of the main reasons a person should never deny a breathalyzer test.

According to our Walnut Creek DUI lawyer, denying a roadside breathalyzer test requested by an officer of the law will result in an automatic suspension of a person’s license. That’s usually one of the harshest penalties a person faces when they’re convicted of a DUI. It’s also important to be aware that some states have actually considered the refusal of a breathalyzer as evidence of drunken driving. Breathalyzer results are not necessary to convict a person of driving under the influence, so it is smart to just take the test and get it over with.

One thing that everyone should remember is that an over-the-limit breathalyzer reading is not an automatic conviction. The .01 percent margin of error means that a person who blows a .08 percent on the test can argue that they were actually at .07 percent; a full point away from legally intoxicated. Even if a person can tell they’re well over the legal limit, there are other arguments that lawyers can make to make a DUI charge go away.

Defenses against Breathalyzer Results

A breathalyzer with only a .01 percent margin of error, as mentioned previously, is a best case scenario for law enforcement. A recent discovery in Pennsylvania found that hundreds of people had been convicted of DUI by results from a breathalyzer that hadn’t been properly calibrated. If these machines are not properly maintained, their incorrect results can be well outside of the margin of error.

There are other common causes for inaccurate readings as well. People with diabetes or on a diet, for instance, will have elevated levels of acetone that these devices may mistake as alcohol. The machine may also pick up on ‘mouth alcohol’ if the driver recently drank; this means the alcohol hasn’t been absorbed in the system yet and that the reading is invalid. Any of these and several other instances can greatly contribute to a reading being far outside of a person’s actual BAC range, even when considering the .01 percent margin of error.

Being arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence is a stressful event for absolutely anyone. This leads some innocent people to confess to a crime that they didn’t actually commit, and it even leads several other people to accept punishments that shouldn’t be administered due to improper breathalyzer procedures. It is a state’s job to prove a person was driving under the influence, and any experienced lawyer can use the aforementioned facts to make this job incredibly difficult.

Chris Bennett is a legal researcher and freelance author for The Law Offices of Johnson and Johnson, a Walnut Creek DUI lawyer. A DUI charge is a serious issue, but a conviction is no guarantee. It is crucial that you find the a competent attorney to provide a comprehensive defense for you specific DUI charge. Johnson and Johnson has an excellent trial record and has established a solid reputation for aggressively defending DUI cases.





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