South Carolina Breathalyzer devices may produce false readings

Breathalyzer devices are used to determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration; however, many studies show that their results may not always be accurate.

Being pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in South Carolina can be an overwhelming experience. During these situations, law enforcement officers often ask the driver to submit to a Breathalyzer test, which is used to determine the amount of alcohol an individual has in their blood. If the Breathalyzer device shows that the driver has a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent or higher, they can be arrested on DUI charges, according to the South Carolina Judicial Department. However, many believe that Breathalyzer devices are not always an accurate way to measure a person's blood alcohol content.

Measuring blood alcohol concentration levels

While Breathalyzer devices function to measure the BAC level of a driver, they never actually measure a driver's blood at all, according to the National Motorists Association. Motorists are asked to breathe into a tube that is attached to the device. Their breath is then analyzed for the presence of ethyl alcohol. The Breathalyzer device converts the subject's breath alcohol content to a blood alcohol content level.

A seasoned professor at the State University of New York at Potsdam reports that a common problem associated with Breathalyzer devices is that they measure much more than simply the amount of alcohol on a person's breath. The methyl group structure can be found in a variety of substances, including acetone, certain bread products and paint.

Diabetics and dieters have been shown to have extremely high acetone levels in their breath, which can cause an inaccurate Breathalyzer reading, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Numerous studies show that the prevalence of gasoline, tobacco smoke, moisture and cleaning fluids in the environment may also affect a person's breath alcohol content.

Evaluating Breathalyzer results

A credible study performed by LaBianca, Simpson, Thompson et.al, shows that the blood alcohol content level measured by a Breathalyzer device does not always accurately represent a person's actual blood alcohol concentration. The researchers found a 50 percent margin of error after comparing the blood alcohol content level given by a Breathalyzer device to the BAC level obtained directly from a blood sample.

With these findings, a Breathalyzer reading of 0.1 percent, which is enough to arrest and possibly convict a person with a DUI, represents an actual blood alcohol measurement of anywhere between 0.05 and 0.15 percent. This misinterpretation may be responsible for wrongful DUI convictions.

Teaming up with an attorney

A DUI conviction can lead to substantial fines, license suspension and jail-time. People with a DUI conviction on their record may have difficulties finding employment in certain industries, obtaining a professional license and securing a driver's license. People who are battling DUI charges should carefully consider teaming up with a DUI attorney who has a thorough knowledge of South Carolina's DUI laws.

Keywords: DUI, arrest, field test, Breathalyzer