DWI Test: The Breathalyzer

A breathalyzer is a device that is usually administered to a person who is suspected of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Typically, a person involved in a vehicle accident and showing symptoms of intoxication will be asked to submit to testing. However, controversies surround the use of breathalyzers; results do not always reflect an accurate reading of a person's BAC level.

Factors Influencing Breathalyzer Test Results

Breathalyzers are not capable of detecting drinking alcohol from other chemicals such as wood alcohol and acetone, for instance. There is also an expected wide margin of error in the results. For this reason, DMV would ordinarily rely on other evidence if the BAC level barely hits 0.08.

Furthermore, breathalyzers have an automatic setting as to a person's body temperature. This setting could also affect the BAC reading since not every person has the same body temperature. Women, for instance, are known to have a high body temperature at certain stages of their menstrual cycle.

False results could also be caused by different breathing patterns. Hyperventilating or blowing for too long could affect the readings as well.

Finally, if the test was not administered right away, the BAC level would not necessarily be the same when the driver was still driving. For instance, if the driver consumed alcohol right before he started driving, it is very likely that he was not yet intoxicated while he was operating the vehicle. However, testing him an hour after he has been stopped by the police could yield a high BAC level because his body had already absorbed the alcohol.

Alcohol Breathalyzers Used By New Hampshire Police

In the majority of New Hampshire DWI arrests, the police use either a roadside portable breath test (PBT) or the Intoxilyzer 5000 EN.

The PBT is used to measure the BAC level in a person's breath. Numbers show that this test yields inaccurate results because it cannot distinguish breath alcohol from lung alcohol. There are factors that could increase the level of breath alcohol in spite of significantly low lung alcohol.

Dentures, for instance, could trap alcohol for as long as 15 minutes. Periodontal diseases, acid reflux and even breath freshners could affect the level of mouth alcohol, which makes it difficult to get an accurate reading of the BAC.

For this reason, DWI laws do not impose any penalty for refusing to submit to PBT testing. However, it is possible that such refusal could lead to an arrest if the police deems it necessary to perform further tests.

The Intoxilyzer 5000 EN, on the other hand, is a full test performed at the police station. It is known to produce more accurate measurements compared to the PBT.

In NH, drunk driving offenders will be brought to the station where they will be informed of their rights prior to the testing. Like the PBT, the Intoxilyzer testing is optional. However, it could lead to the revocation of license for a period of six months up to two years. This penalty will be in addition to any criminal sentence in case of a DUI conviction.

In any case, the testing device and the person administering the test should be certified. The suspected offender can also request a sample of his breath used by the police to be examined in an independent facility.

Inadmissibility of the Results

According to the DWI laws, incorrect readings could be invalidated through witness testimonies and independent testing. If there is solid evidence that will cast doubt on the results given by the breathalyzer, the suspected offender could be acquitted from all charges. Even a police officer's prior record of administering a test incorrectly could lead to the inadmissibility of the results of the breath test.