Sobriety checkpoints are extremely stressful, even if you are sober. Anxiety alone can cause you to stutter through conversations with police officers and stumble through roadside tests. If the officer decides to give you a breathalyzer, some people panic, whether or not they’ve had a drink in the past few hours. You might think: “What if the breathalyzer blows positive even if I had nothing to drink?”
That may sound like a silly fear to some people, but it’s not completely unwarranted. Over the years, there have been numerous cases in which breathalyzers have registered a false positive and people were charged with driving under the influence.
Faulty Breathalyzers Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars
If you haven’t been drinking and you get charged with a DUI at a sobriety checkpoint, you could be facing severe penalties – for doing absolutely nothing wrong! Often, a false DUI charge is caused by a faulty breathalyzer or officer misuse.
So what causes a breathalyzer to show positive results when you’re completely sober? Here are a few factors that can alter a breathalyzer test and give you a false positive:
Calibration. Just as a scale that measures your weight, breathalyzers have to be reset and calibrated to work properly. If you were given a breathalyzer test at a busy DUI checkpoint and the officer had tested multiple people on the same machine in a short amount of time, you might be able to argue that the breathalyzer’s calibration was off and your illegal BAC is false.
Software. Just like a computer, breathalyzers run on software, and can sometimes experience failures or glitches.
Human Error. These are harder to prove, but it is possible that human error caused the breathalyzer to show inaccurate results. Perhaps the officer was not properly trained to use the device. Or it was stored incorrectly. Or shortcuts were taken for expediency that could invalidate the test.
Medications. This is one of the most commonly discussed causes of a faulty breathalyzer. Taking medication before driving may affect breathalyzer results. If you consumed any of the following before your test, it may explain a false positive:
- Anbesol gel (pain reliever for toothaches, canker sores)
- Certain cold sore medications
- Vicks Formula 44
- DayQuil or NyQuil
- Cough drops
- Albuterol (medication in inhalers)
Even if the medication you have been taking does not appear on this list, check the label and do some research. The presence of alcohol or other types of chemical bonds may show up on a breathalyzer as a false positive.
Other Foreign Substances. The list of everyday items that can affect a breathalyzer does not end at medication. Since alcohol is a carrier liquid in Listerine breath sprays and mouthwashes, you may get a false positive just for trying to have fresh breath. Even some lip balms have been known to affect a breathalyzer.
Also be sure to take a look at your surroundings while you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint. A newly painted house or recent road construction can also put chemicals in the air that will affect your breathalyzer.
In fact, there are so many ways that a breathalyzer can get an inaccurate reading that it’s almost foolish not to challenge the results. Especially when calling those results into question may help you to avoid conviction. Contact a Florida defense lawyer today to get started on your defense.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.