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Can Chemicals Cause False Breathalyzer Readings?

Police departments around the world have developed a number of techniques for estimating a driver’s level of intoxication. Breathalyzers are one of the most commonly-used devices, purporting to measure the user’s blood alcohol percentage based on his or her breath. Breathalyzers are much more prone to false or inaccurate readings than many people realize, however, and there are many common substances that can lead to inaccurate results.

How Breathalyzers Work

Most breathalyzers work by measuring how much the user’s breath reacts with a set of chemical sensors. They are designed to detect the chemical signature of ethanol, the alcohol in alcoholic beverages. In laboratory conditions this can predict the amount of alcohol in the user’s bloodstream, but there are hundreds of other chemicals that react with these devices in the same way as ethanol.

Causes of Inaccurate Results

A number of common household chemicals can throw off breathalyzer readings, even some that may be in the environment when the test is administered. Gasoline vapors, for example, can cause false readings. Considering how many breathalyzer tests are administered during traffic stops, it is not unusual for there to be gasoline in the atmosphere. Likewise many common cleaning chemicals can throw off readings, as can lacquers and paint removers.

If you have been charged with a DUI or similar offense based on an inaccurate breathalyzer reading, there are numerous factors that could have interfered with the device’s ability to give an accurate reading.

Contact Us

With the help of experienced Rhode Island DUI lawyer Matthew Marin, you can defend your rights. To discuss your case, call our offices at 401-287-4384.