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How accurate are roadside DUI testing devices?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2020 | DUI

Roadside breath testing devices used by law enforcement officials may not be 100% accurate. An improperly calibrated device, for example, could display skewed results, and a false reading obtained at a traffic stop could result in a DUI arrest even if the individual is below the impairment level. 

Refusing to submit to a breath test, however, can result in serious penalties such as incarceration, a fine and license suspension. Pennsylvania’s implied consent law means that a motorist has already provided his or her consent to submit to a breath test by signing a driver’s license application. He or she must submit to a breath test when an officer has reasonable cause to request it. 

How could a roadside device provide unreliable results? 

When a law enforcement official requests a motorist to blow into a roadside breath test device and obtains a BAC level higher than 0.08%, the officer can arrest the individual for DUI. The BAC level, however, may not always be precise because of one or more causes contributing to the device’s poor performance. As reported by The New York Times, glitches in software, inexperienced handling and certain chemical reactions may contribute to faulty test results. 

The software used by some portable testing devices to calculate a motorist’s BAC level can require at least 60 seconds to produce an accurate reading. When an officer conducts a test in a hurry or without sufficient training and experience, inaccurate results may result in a motorist’s unwarranted arrest. 

Certain roadside testing devices that use fuel cells may interact with traces of mouthwash or mints in a motorist’s breath. This unwanted chemical reaction may generate a BAC level considerably higher than the amount of alcohol in an individual’s system. 

Does a motorist have the right to contest a roadside device’s results? 

Every individual charged has a legal right to contest the results of a breath test device. A prosecutor must prove a motorist’s impairment level at the time of his or her arrest in order to convict. A strong defense may provide evidence based on a toxicologist’s findings to dispute the results of a roadside device.