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Officer, is that breath testing machine properly calibrated?

Anyone stopped and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol may want to ask this question. You may be one of many Florida residents who are under the impression that breath tests are a definitive way to tell whether a person is intoxicated.

This prompts many people to simply plead guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge. That could be a mistake, however. Breath testing machines, like many other machines, require routine calibration and maintenance in order to function properly. You may be surprised just how often these machines don't give correct readings because they aren't taken care of by the officers (and departments) who use them.

Calibrating a breath testing machine

The manufacturer may make recommendations, but how often a breath-testing machine needs calibrating is often up to Florida law. However, some basic commonalities among regulations include the following:

  • Certification is required for an officer to use the machine.
  • One test isn't enough. It takes at least two tests with results within .02 to make a determination of intoxication.
  • Departments must choose their machines from a list of devices deemed acceptable.
  • An officer shouldn't conduct a test if the person smoked, ate, vomited (or came close to it) or burped within a certain amount of time before testing.
  • An officer must administer the test in accordance with his or her training.
  • An officer must check the machine for accuracy and maintain it on a regular schedule.

Officers use breath tests to establish the probable cause required to make an arrest. The failure to follow these guidelines could cause false readings that could not only end with you being placed under arrest, but your personal and professional lives may be affected as well if you are stopped and accused of drunk driving.

Challenging the results of a breath testing machine

For over two decades, attorneys and experts have questioned the reliability of these machines. Courts across the country have ruled their results inadmissible as evidence. If you find yourself placed under arrest by an officer based on the result of a breath test, you have the right to challenge the results.

Requesting the records for the device used in your case from the court and reviewing them may help determine whether any mistakes occurred or if the machine was not working properly. Due to the complexities of legal proceedings, it may be a good idea to obtain help from someone well-versed in these issues.

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