Human Error / Mechanical Malfunction

Types of Tests:

Breathalyzer tests are extremely prone to both human and mechanical error. Although their design and accuracy improves from year to year, the current models still leave a lot up to chance.

By standard, most breathalyzers report test results by a measurement of 210 liters. However, the device only tests an average of 80 cubic centimeters of breath. It only takes approximately one millionth of an ounce of alcohol in that small a size breath sample to get a .10, an illegal reading.

Considering this extremely high susceptibility to contamination, it is easy to see how so many substances have the potential to greatly influence a given breath sample. From paint fumes to gasoline fumes, police radio waves to cell phone signals, the sample results from a breathalyzer may detail a wide array of outside influences.

Other possible influences not often taken into account upon the administration of a breathalyzer test may include:

  • Body temperature
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Fasting or dieting

In addition to outside influence, human error may alter breathalyzer samples even more significantly. Although officers are fully trained in the proper use, maintenance, and reading of breathalyzer tests, much is still left up to chance.

Officers are only supposed to administer the breath tests after 20 minutes of careful observation. During this period of observation the officer must watch for signs of vomiting, burping, and blood. They must also ensure that the subject is not breathing too quickly from an adrenaline rush or heavy exercise. If a person holds their breath before or during the test, the results can be significantly affected. All of these factors have the potential to alter results from a breathalyzer test.

Human error alone could account for an unlimited possibility of effects such as:

  • Misread BAC levels.
  • Improper sequence of test administration.
  • Sloppy handwriting in the subject’s file.

Alternative chemical sobriety methods like blood and urine tests may provide more accurate results for blood alcohol concentration, as there are fewer chances for human error when administering the tests.