Factors That Can Influence Your Breathalyzer Test Result

Never Assume A Georgia Breath Test Is Accurate:

Challenging The Intoxilyzer 5000 and Intoxilyzer 9000 Result In Georgia:

When a law enforcement officer suspects an individual of driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer may request that the individual submit to a state-administered breath test to measure the amount of alcohol in their person's bloodstream.  Traditionally a person's B.A.C is an indicator of impairment.  In Georgia, the machine most commonly used for such breath tests is the Intoxilyzer 5000, which has been in use since the mid-1990s.  By the end of 2015, the Intoxilyzer 5000 will be replaced by the new and "improved" Intoxilyzer 9000.  The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has conducted tests on both the Intoxilyzer 9000 and its predecessor and has concluded that the machines are accurate at determining an individual's blood alcohol content.

However, these tests assume ideal testing conditions, a perfectly healthy, average-sized test subject, and a skilled test administrator.  In reality, we know that testing conditions are not always ideal, and human beings are not one-size-fits-all.  We also know that not all test administrators are experienced, and that even skilled operators make mistakes.  The logical conclusion, therefore, is that there are factors that can result in flawed breath test results.

What Are Some Of the Factors That May Cause An Inaccurate Breathalyzer Result?

Residual mouth alcohol is one of the most common causes of a false positive result.  Many things can cause residual mouth alcohol, including most mouthwashes, breath sprays, and cough syrups.  The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains that after a person takes a drink, some of the alcohol remains in the mouth tissues.  If the person exhales soon after drinking, the breath sample will pick up some of this leftover mouth alcohol. In this case, the breath sample will contain an additional amount of alcohol and the test result will be higher than the true BAC.  Mouth alcohol remains in the mouth for roughly 15-20 minutes before dissipating.

Mouth alcohol can also be present for reasons other than a recent alcoholic drink.  Chewing gum and dental appliances may retain alcohol.  Some asthma inhalers contain alcohol.  Further, if a person throws up prior to taking a breath test, they may have elevated mouth alcohol levels because the contents of the stomach are aspirated into the breathalyzer.

This is where user error on the part of the police officer conducting the test may come into play.  Law enforcement officers are instructed to make sure that a DUI suspect has not had any alcohol for at least 15 to 20 minutes before administering a breath test.  If the officer fails to comply with this 20-minute waiting period, mouth alcohol may still be present and may affect the results of the test.  Also, a a police officer should instruct a DUI suspect to dispose of gum, and should note any medications.

Many medical conditions can artificially inflate breath test results. Diabetes is one such medical condition.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that diabetics can have acetone levels hundreds and even thousands of times higher than that of other people.  Because the Intoxilyzer machine determines an individual's BAC by identifying ethyl alcohol, and the machines cannot distinguish between acetone and ethyl alcohol, high acetone levels can create a falsely high reading on a breath test.  Studies have also shown that low carb, high fat, high protein diets can spike acetone levels as well.

An individual who suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD is also at particular risk of having an inflated breath test reading.  GERD causes the contents of a person's stomach to flow back up the digestive tract.  This would include any undigested alcohol in the stomach, which could then affect breath test results when stomach contents contaminate the breath sample.

Even simple burping can interfere with the Intoxilyzer.  Burping causes the gasses from your stomach to rise into a person's esophagus and mouth.  Depending on when the individual drank his last alcoholic beverage, the contents of these gases can contain alcohol and a breath test may pick up on this alcohol.

Environmental factors can also affect breath test results. For example, if a person is exposed to acetone at work (this happens most commonly with painters), they may have acetone in their system, which, as discussed above, may inflate breath test results.  Alternatively, an Intoxilyzer mouthpiece contaminated by alcohol from a prior use may create an unreliable result.

This Is Why We Challenge Chemical Testing In Our Client's DUI Cases:

The moral of the story is to never assume guilt, regardless of the reading on a breath test.  It is very important to look for all potential defenses including that the how the appearance of the accused does not match up with a person who has registered the alleged reading on the breathalyzer.  In fact, many times Georgia DUI Lawyers prefer that a client has a high breath test reading when a person appears sober on video.  The best DUI Lawyers will argue to a jury that common sense should prevail when the results of a breathalyzer appear unreliable.

We Are Dedicated To Finding The Best Possible Outcome In Your DUI Case:

If you have been arrested for DUI and you submitted to a breath test, act now.  You only have 30 days to have your Atlanta DUI Lawyer file an appeal to save your driver's license.  Atlanta DUI Attorney Richard Lawson is a former DUI Prosecutor with more than 25 years of experience defending people accused of DUI throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.  Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We are here when you need us most.

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  • This case was in Helen Municipal Court.  The client was charged with a DUI and four counts of DUI Child Endangerment.  In Georgia, for every child under the age of 14 in a vehicle it is considered a separate DUI offense.  The client would have been declared an habitual violator from one arrest an... Read On

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Choosing the Best DUI Lawyer


When you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, finding the right Lawyer is Job #1. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson we will investigate your case and find the best possible legal defense to your DUI in Georgia. You are in good hands with Richard Lawson and his associates. We will work tirelessly to help you while compassionately holding your hand throughout the entire DUI Defense Process.

Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys

At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!