Beating Positive Breathalyzer Results: Why Breathalyzer Tests Can Be Wrong

 We all know that drinking and driving is never a good idea.  There is no excuse for getting drunk and getting behind the wheel of a car.  However, what if you only had one drink or a sip of alcohol, even none at all, and you tested positive on a breathalyzer test?  This type of thing happens more than you think.  Recently in San Francisco over 1,000 false positive readings were thrown out, and prosecutions overturned because of such results. 

How can Breathalyzers Yield False Positive Results? 

1.        Improper Breathalyzer Calibration

Improper calibration was the main cause of the over 1,000 conviction turnovers in San Francisco last spring.  Every make and model is different, and law enforcement divisions must follow the equipment manufacturer’s guidelines for calibration exactly for the results to be accurate.  In the California incident, the 20 breathalyzer units were supposed to be calibrated every two weeks.  However, San Francisco law enforcement failed to maintain the equipment manufacturer’s guidelines and was forced to overturn hundreds of convictions based on the outcome of the breathalyzer test results.

2.        Alcohol Residue in Mouth

This may sound silly, but a breathalyzer is designed to measure the amount of alcohol saturation from the air in a person’s lungs.  The human body releases alcohol through the lungs as a way of processing and expelling it.  If a person has just taken a sip of alcohol, they will have residual alcohol in their mouths that the breathalyzer assumes is from the lungs.  This can yield a much higher reading than the actual amount of alcohol in the person’s body. Therefore, each breathalyzer recommends that the testing officer wait a certain period of time (usually about 20 minutes) before administering the test for accurate results.  If you have just downed half a glass of wine before getting pulled over, the residual alcohol in your mouth will mislead the breathalyzer into thinking you just drank an entire bottle.

3.        Breathalyzer Interference

Many things can cause false positive readings on breathalyzer tests, the most common being an elevated number of ketones in diabetics’ blood that causes an increase in acetone in their breath.  Some breathalyzer tests are sensitive to acetone and mistakenly register it as alcohol.  Other substances can cause false positive results as well such as paint fumes, chemical fumes, mouthwash, gum, cough syrup, and even herbal supplements. 

4.        Other Breathalyzer Reading Errors

A breathalyzer can also improperly measure BAC during the absorption phase of alcohol consumption. Absorption time varies depending on the person, but it can last anywhere from half an hour to two hours.  In the absorption period, alcohol is not evenly distributed through the blood stream and can yield erroneous breathalyzer results. 

Did You Test Positive for Alcohol on a Breathalyzer Test?

If you tested positive on a breathalyzer test you need to contact a DWI lawyer immediately to start building your defense.  Only an experienced DWI lawyer will have the knowledge and expertise necessary to fight for you in court.  If you are facing DWI or DUI charges after testing positive on a breathalyzer test, hire a DWI  or DUI lawyer today. 




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Parales to Head Houston DWI Task Force Despite Reprimands


 Last month Police Chief Charles McClelland named Daniel S. Parales as the new Houston DWI task force supervisor.  The reason his appointment has provoked so much controversy is because he was reprimanded in April for not charging an HPD officer with a DWI when he was clearly intoxicated.  After colliding with a school bus and testing a BAC of over twice the legal limit, Parales let the officer go and attempted to cover the whole thing up. 

Teresa Argueta was driving the privately owned school bus when the accident occurred, and luckily was the only occupant.  She was later cited for running a stop sign.  Argueta claimed that the vehicle Sergeant Ruben Trejo was driving at the time of the accident contained opened beer and wine bottles, and that Trejo smelled strongly of alcohol. 

Officers who responded to the scene were later reprimanded for not taking the bottles as evidence.  However, the officers claimed that the bottles Argueta spoke of were unopened. 

Teresa Argueta’s son, Aaron Argueta, rushed to the scene of the accident after receiving a phone call from his mother about the accident.  When he arrived he immediately went to the site of impact and attempted to take pictures of the alcohol in the police officer’s car. Argueta claims that the officers threatened to arrest him if he photographed the inside of the car.

Chief McClelland continues to defend his decision of appointing Parales as the new Houston DWI task force supervisor, stating that Parales and the other officers reprimanded in the event will in no way repeat the mistakes they were disciplined for.

Sergeant Trejo was charged with a DWI two weeks after the accident, and has since retired from his position as an HPD Sergeant. 

Aaron Argueta voiced concerns over what he thinks was an obvious cover-up.  He told the media that if he had hit a school bus while driving drunk, he would most certainly be in a penitentiary. 

However, the Houston Police Officer’s union has been extremely critical of McClelland’s punishment towards the HPD officers who responded to the scene of the April 13th accident.  The union thinks that the punishment was unnecessary, and that the officers did not make any mistakes that would warrant such reprimands. 

Even Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) agrees with Parales’ appointment as supervisor of the Houston DWI task force.  MADD says that they are happy with any concentrated efforts to stop drunk driving in Houston.

Public controversy over HPD and other local law enforcement agencies is nothing new in Houston.  Only last month the Harris County Sherriff’s parole department was under scrutiny, and hundreds of drug tests were deemed inadmissible in court.  It is safe to say that Sergeant Trejo will need a good Houston drunk driving lawyer to defend him, as leniency in his trial is highly unlikely.


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