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Can you believe a breathalyzer?


If you have been charged with a DWI in Minnesota, you may have had your level of intoxication determined by a breath testing device. These devices are designed to analyze a breath sample and measure the alcohol in your breath. The machine then calculates an estimation of your blood alcohol content (BAC).


In Minnesota and the rest of the nation, 0.08 is the legal limit for BAC. At this level and above, you are considered legally drunk. You may, in fact, not be impaired, but the 0.08 level is a per se standard, meaning that at that level, you are deemed to be impaired. Even if you could pass field sobriety test or otherwise showed none of the typical signs of impairment, you would still be charged with a DWI.


Recently, Canada's highest court upheld one province's DWI law that allows drivers to have their license suspended and their vehicle seized at the roadside if their BAC from a breath test exceeds the legal limit.

However, the court acknowledged a troubling fact. The breath test machines are often unreliable. The CBC notes that 51 drivers had their licenses reinstated after it was found that law enforcement had calibrated the machines incorrectly.

That experience is not unusual. Breath-testing devices are complex instruments and must be properly maintained and calibrated, and even then, their results are no beyond reproach.

If you have been charged with a DWI based on the reading of a breath-testing machine, you should always consider challenging the charge, as these machines are not infallible and the measurement they display could be incorrect.


Source: cbc.ca, "B.C. drunk driving laws will continue to be battled in court, say lawyers," October 17, 2015

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