A Lot Is Riding on Your Roadside Breath Test

You are probably aware of the dangers of drunk driving. Television stations run public service announcements, roadside billboards carry warnings and local law enforcement establishes sobriety checkpoints in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities from intoxicated drivers. You have likely heard the warnings about drunk driving since you were a teenager preparing to get your driver's license.

Nevertheless, to your own surprise, police pulled you over and arrested you for DUI. You know your limits, and you are careful not to drive when you've had too much. In fact, the night of your arrest, you were certain you were not over the limit. But the breath test said you were.

Over the limit may not be the end of the line

Breath tests are the go-to sobriety test. They are faster, cheaper and more portable than blood or urine tests. They also have the most potential for error. The following are just a few examples of factors that can produce false positive results in a roadside breath test:

  • A medical condition such as diabetes
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Natural bodily gases produced if you haven't eaten recently
  • Radio frequencies from police scanners
  • Mechanical issues in the device
  • Poor calibration or maintenance of the breath test device
  • A lack of universal standards or poor training in administering and reading the tests

In many states, including Wisconsin, it is against the law for you to refuse to take a roadside breath test, even if police are going to use the results of that test as probable cause to arrest you, search your vehicle and possibly add more charges to your arrest. If authorities based your arrest on a breath test, it is possible that with the right representation, you can successfully fight the charges against you.

Now what?

Thirty percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents involve alcohol, so you know the importance of preventing drivers from getting behind the wheel after drinking. However, you also know your rights, and a DUI conviction based on a possibly faulty breath test is nothing to accept without a fight. Drunk driving convictions can damage your career, your opportunities and your family. When a DUI arrest or conviction has the potential to ruin the rest of your life, you certainly want to stand up for your rights.