Are Arizona Breathalyzer Results Accurate?

Getting pulled over for a DUI is a terrifying experience. While each Arizona DUI arrest is different, one of the more common ways police officers arrest someone for driving under the influence of alcohol is to tell the driver that they are suspected of DUI and to conduct a roadside breath-alcohol test. Police officers must articulate some basis for requesting a breath test, however, the officer’s subjective belief that a driver is under the influence will often be sufficient. Obviously, introducing this type of subjectivity raises concerns that can be addressed in pre-trial motions to suppress.

Putting the validity of the traffic stop aside for the moment, once an officer determines that a driver is potentially intoxicated, the driver is asked to blow into a tube that is connected to a small machine. The machine analyzes the alcohol content in the driver’s breath, and returns a number that represents an approximation of the person’s blood-alcohol content (BAC). In Arizona, the legal limit is a .08 BAC.

For those unfamiliar with the process, it may seem that once a result above .08 is returned there is no defense and the only option is to plead guilty. The reality is that most people who are arrested for DUI end up pleading guilty to negotiated or reduced charges because it is easier and quicker than taking the case to trial where, if they are found guilty, they may face a more serious sentence. However, if challenged, the prosecution must be able to prove that the machine used to administer the test was accurate, properly calibrated, and correctly used by the police officer.

According to a recent New York Times article, the accuracy of breath-alcohol testing machines has recently been called into question. The article notes that there are several concerns associated with the accuracy of these machines. Breath-alcohol testing devices are highly sophisticated, and require frequent calibration to ensure they are accurate. The article notes that many jurisdictions do not have officers that are trained to calibrate the machines. There have also been some devices that contained errors in the software used to analyze the alcohol content of a driver’s breath. And in one case, inspectors found that rats were nesting in the machines that were not currently in use.

Unfortunately, courts have a history of preventing defense attorneys from accessing the data that would help them better understand how these devices work. However, as more reports detail the problems with breath-testing machines, courts may start to change their attitudes.

Have You Been Arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Arizona?

If you have recently been arrested for an Arizona drunk driving offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is an experienced Arizona DUI attorney with a reputation for zealously representing his clients at every stage of the case. Attorney Novak represents clients in and around the Tempe area, including throughout Maricopa County and in Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix, Queen Creek, and Scottsdale. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with Attorney Nova today, call 480-413-1499.

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