How accurate are breathalyzers?

On Behalf of | May 26, 2020 | Firm News

Due to Georgia’s implied consent law, you must submit to a breathalyzer test if and when law enforcement officers stop you for alleged DUI and request you to take one. Although you have the legal right to refuse, doing so will result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. 

As you likely know, a breathalyzer measures and records your blood alcohol content. If it registers a BAC higher than 0.08% – 0.02% if you are under 21 years of age – you are presumptively drunk and officers have the probable cause they need to arrest you for DUI. But how accurate are breathalyzers? The answer, as reported by, is not very. 

Inaccuracies related to type

Breathalyzers come in the following three types: 

  1. Fuel-cell 
  2. Infrared 
  3. Color-Changing 

The first two types have proven so inaccurate that virtually all states require officers to use a color-changing breathalyzer to have any hope of admitting its results into evidence when the case goes to court. Unfortunately for alleged DUI offenders, however, even color-changing breathalyzers have inaccuracy rates as high as 15%. Experts estimate that as many as 23% of all DUI convictions nationwide happen to innocent defendants who fell victim to an inaccurate breathalyzer. 

Inaccuracies related to you personally 

Additional breathalyzer inaccuracies often happen because of one or more of the following: 

  • You recently ate food containing vinegar. 
  • You recently gargled with mouthwash or chewed a breath mint. 
  • You recently used a paint thinner, cleaning fluids, paint remover, etc. 
  • You have diabetes. 
  • You had a high body temperature at the time you took your breathalyzer test. 
  • You recently took a legally prescribed medication containing alcohol. 

If you truly believe that the breathalyzer the officers used on you recorded an inaccurate BAC result per se or one that registered above the legal limit only because of an explainable and legal reason, you have every right to challenge the breathalyzer results in court.