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Common Misconceptions About DC Breathalyzers

If you are stopped and suspected of driving under the influence in Washington, DC, you will likely be asked to take a preliminary breath test on the side of the road. With this in mind, the following are common misconceptions regarding preliminary breath tests in DC according to a DC DUI lawyer.

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Are Breathalyzers a Reliable and Consistent Indicator of One’s Alcohol Content?

It is not the case that all breathalyzers are always reliable. They are delicate instruments that have to be calibrated and tested and if this is not done properly, then they are not necessarily reliable. Generally speaking, as long as the correct calibration, certification, maintenance programs are done, then they are supposed to be reliable and they usually are in that sense operating correctly. With that said, the question is, are they consistent indicators of blood alcohol content and most attorneys would say ‘no’, because blood alcohol content rises, plateaus and falls based on a number of factors. Thus, a breathalyzer test that is done two hours after driving will not necessarily be an accurate indicator of the blood alcohol content of the driver at the time of testing. There are too many factors that go into that, so the simple answer would be ‘no.’

If You Are Positive Your BAC is Below 0.08%, Should You Take The Preliminary Breath Test?

Not necessarily, it depends on the circumstances. If you are positive your BAC is below 0.08, that you literally have had nothing to drink that contains alcohol, and know your blood alcohol content is 0.00, then the answer would be yes. Go ahead and take any kind of breathalyzer test that the officer wants because you will show you do not have any alcohol in your system. However, I would caution you if you are under the influence of any kind of drugs, not alcohol.

For example, if you have been smoking marijuana or ingesting cocaine and you do not have any alcohol in your system, and you think, “I can take the breathalyzer. It will show 0.00; therefore, the officer won’t arrest me.” If you are under the influence of any drugs, although the breathalyzer test will show 0.00, the officer will then request that you give a urine or blood sample so they can test for the presence of drugs. Having drugs in your system can result in mandatory jail time in DC.

So, again, the only time for sure that you may want to take a breathalyzer is if you are sure it will not register any alcohol in your system. Other than that someone should decline a breath test if they have any alcohol in their system because the level of blood alcohol content that’s going to be shown is dependent upon so many factors that are outside of ones’ control—metabolism for instance, what one had to eat and when, what one’s health is like, whether there are any glucose issues, et cetera.

There are all kinds of medical and physiological factors that go into someone’s blood alcohol content score. So, if you had anything to drink in the past several hours, an attorney would strongly caution against taking any kind of breath test.