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Should you trust the results of a Breathalyzer machine?

The simple answer is maybe not. When a police officer suspects a driver of being impaired, one of the tools he or she uses to substantiate an arrest is a Breathalyzer machine. This machine is designed to detect alcohol from a person's breath. If it reads .08 or more, which is the legal limit here in New Jersey, the driver could be placed under arrest.

Many New Jersey residents think that is the end of the story, but that might not be the case. Breath machines such as the Breathalyzer require routine maintenance and calibration in order to function properly. If the machine is not working right, it could produce false readings. An attorney will often request the records regarding the machine used for the test that led to the arrest. If the evidence indicates that the machine was consistently giving incorrect readings or that it was not properly maintained and calibrated, prosecutors could have to prove that the driver was intoxicated through other means.

In addition, the officer administering the test must be trained and certified to do so. The officer must also administer the test as he or she was trained. Several factors can affect any readings from the machine as well such as vomiting, smoking or burping, among others. It is also necessary to take more than one reading. In order to make an arrest, no variation of more than .02 can exist between two readings.

As you can see, the results of a Breathalyzer machine might not provide an officer with a viable reason for an arrest. If you were arrested based on the results of a breath test, you have the right to challenge those results. A criminal defense attorney who handles drunk driving charges should understand how these machines work and how to challenge any test results in court. Other challenges could also affect the outcome of your case, but this is a good place to start.

Source: FindLaw, "Breathalyzer Calibration", Accessed on March 6, 2017

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