Problems with Breath Testing in Oklahoma
Breath testing for blood alcohol content has many flaws that could affect the outcome of a DUI case. Oklahoma law enforcement use a breathalyzer called the Intoxilyzer 8000, which works on a light absorption theory. Like for blood testing, variances in the test equipment and testing process can result in incorrect BAC level measurements.
Breathalyzer technology employs a number of scientific assumptions that can be challenged because not every human processes alcohol or breathes into the device in the same way. For example, the devices’ accuracy depends on the assumption that every driver has an exact number of parts of alcohol molecules in their blood for every part of alcohol molecules in their breath, which simply is not true for everyone. The ratio of alcohol molecules that pass into the breath varies from person to person and even from minute to minute as the body processes alcohol.
Differences in anatomy or the deepness of the breath a driver takes before blowing into the device can affect measurements. Taking a shallow breath before breathing into the device can cause an artificially high BAC, and people with naturally higher or lower body temperature may have warmer or colder breath that affects the test results. Further, breathalyzers measure alcohol molecules, and some chemicals have molecular structures very similar to alcohol, such as acetone. The presence of these chemicals in the breath or their entry into the breathalyzer from the surrounding environment could skew test results, although the effect is most likely very small.
Further, a phenomenon called residual mouth alcohol can affect breathalyzer results. It occurs when recently ingested alcohol remains in the mucosal linings of your mouth and moves into your airstream as you breathe out into a breathalyzer. If you recently gargled mouthwash, took cough syrup, or finished an alcoholic drink (even if it was not enough to make you legally drunk), residual mouth alcohol could raise test results to the point that you test drunk, but in truth your blood alcohol is below the legal limit. Residual mouth alcohol leaves your mouth, for the most part, within about 15 minutes.
Another variable is device calibration. The Oklahoma Board of Tests sets rules for calibration of breathalyzers by law enforcement agencies, which generally involves using the device with a solution of known alcohol content to ensure its result are within 10% of the correct value. However, calibration does not ensure against device malfunction, and if a device is not calibrated regularly its results may be suspect. Numerous other factors besides calibration and the others listed above can affect breathalyzer results, so protect yourself by finding an attorney to analyze your breath test administration.
Have you been charged with a DUI in Oklahoma and don’t know where to turn? Seek out the attorney who knows the system. Clint Patterson, Esq., of Patterson Law Firm, a former Tulsa prosecutor now using his trial experience and expert-level knowledge of DUI science to defend drivers, has the experience and the insight to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Patterson Law Firm online or call Clint’s office at (918) 550-9175.