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Can You Challenge DUI Breathalyzer Results?

Posted by Alan Eisner | Jun 16, 2017

Can You Challenge DUI Breathalyzer Results in Los Angeles?
Breath tests results in DUI cases are not an exact science and can be challenged by an experienced DUI attorney.

In the State of California, it is unlawful to drive under the influence of alcohol. A California driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is deemed to be driving under the influence.

People who are convicted of this offense are subject to extremely serious legal consequences, including significant fines, probation, community service, the loss of their driver's license, and even jail time.

In Los Angeles County, there are literally thousands of DUI cases filed every year. A major factor that prosecutors and juries consider in a DUI case is the defendant's breath test results at the time of arrest.

The most common method used to determine an individual's blood alcohol concentration is through the administration of a breathalyzer exam.

A police officer will, during the traffic stop, administer an exam if they suspect the driver to have been driving under the influence. 

During the exam, the driver must breathe a continuous breath into the breathalyzer.

The machine will analyze the contents of the driver's breath and calculate the driver's BAC. A driver with a BAC above the legal limit of 0.08 will likely be arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. 

A second breathalyzer exam is usually administered at the police station. A driver who has a BAC over the legal limit will likely be formally charged with driving under the influence. Moreover, the results of the second breathalyzer are admissible at trial.

A breathalyzer exam of over 0.08 does not guarantee that the driver will be convicted of driving under the influence. Instead, a driver can challenge the results of the breathalyzer exam.

They may even beat the charges. Consequently, anyone who has been arrested under suspicion of drunk driving should have a DUI lawyer review their case, regardless of the results of any chemical testing that may have been performed.

Breath tests results in Los Angeles DUI cases are not an exact science and can be challenged by an experienced DUI attorney.

However, the results of these tests are the major factor used by prosecutors, judges, and a jury to convict countless individuals every year in driving under the influence cases. 

Beating the Results of a DUI Breathalyzer 

Many believe that the results of a breathalyzer exam are indisputable and that the fact that they “blew” means that their case is hopeless.

This is a misguided belief and has undoubtedly resulted in individuals being needlessly convicted of DUI over the years.

However, there are a variety of ways an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney could challenge the DUI breath test results, depending on the specific facts of your case.

The results of your DUI breath test are typically the stating point in your case as it determines the serious nature of your drunk driving case.

Your DUI attorney may raise valid legal defenses that could throw the examination into question, thereby defeating the charge. Your lawyer may challenge the results by the following:

  • Demonstrating that Breathalyzers are not Reliable: It is a generally accepted fact by all experts who testify in driving under the influence case that the DUI breath test machine used by Los Angles police are not 100% accurate. The machines used in DUI cases have an error rate, meaning that in a close case, this fact could be used by your DUI lawyer to win your case at trial or used to negotiate a favorable plea bargain. Additionally, published reports have indicated that breathalyzers are not always reliable. In fact, scientists have concluded that breath testing in an inaccurate method for determining BAC. Others have found the reliability of machines to be questionable at best. A skilled Los Angeles DUI lawyer can challenge the results of the breathalyzer by pointing to the high level of inaccuracy as well as the lack of reliability from the machine used by the arresting officer. The DUI cases that have the best chance of a successful outcome are the cases where the reading on the DUI breath test machine are close to the legal limit and the defendant was able to pass some of the field sobriety test.
  • When the DUI Breath Test was Taken: Another potential way to challenge the DUI breath test results is connected to specifically when the breath test was given in relation to when the defendant was observed by police driving the vehicle. The key factor here is not what the defendant's blood alcohol level was the time the test was taken. Instead, it's what the defendant's blood alcohol level was at the exact time they were driving. This key question is very relevant in finding a defendant guilty of drunk driving. The more time that elapses from the moment that the DUI breath test was taken, the more difficult it becomes to prove what the defendant's blood alcohol level at the time they were driving.
  • Arresting Police Officer Lacked Training: Breathalyzer exams are administered by arresting officers. These officers are trained in administering these exams. Yet, a police officer may administer the exam incorrectly because they have insufficient or inadequate training. A lack of training may produce inaccurate results, and a DUI attorney may be able to have them thrown out if they can prove their inaccuracy.
  • Showing that the Machine was not Properly Calibrated: A breathalyzer should be properly calibrated in order to produce accurate results. As such, the breathalyzer results may be inaccurate if the machine was not properly calibrated. 
  • Arguing that the Breathalyzer Test was Illegal: Police officers are required to follow specific procedures when conducting a traffic stop. A police must have reasonable suspicion to pull someone over, and they must have probable cause that the driver was intoxicated before they administer a breathalyzer. If the police officer is unable to properly demonstrate both, the exam could be considered an illegal search.
  • Medical Condition that Causes Unreliably High BAC Results: The breathalyzer functions by taking a breath sample and extrapolating a person's BAC – as such, it does not directly measure the alcohol in a person's blood. Studies have indicated that a medical condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can result in higher-than-normal levels of mouth alcohol, which in turn can cause the breathalyzer to report that the test subject's BAC Is higher than it actually is. Consequently, if you suffer from GERD you may be able to challenge the result of the breathalyzer. 

Call a Los Angeles DUI Attorney to Review Your Case

Different people process alcohol in different ways and there are several factors that can influence the results of a DUI breath test results. Some examples include their height, weight, and what food they ate within the hours of drinking and driving.

This is why you need an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney from our law firm. 

California is an implied consent state, meaning that you will lose your license if you refuse to take a breathalyzer exam during a traffic stop. However, taking a breathalyzer exam is not guaranteed to work against you.

The experienced DUI attorneys at Eisner Gorin LLP recognize that, and they will zealously defend you in your DUI case. Contact us today by calling 877-781-1570 

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About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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