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What happens after someone fails a breath test?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2023 | Driving While Intoxicated |

A chemical breath test is often one of the most important steps in a drunk driving traffic stop or the process of putting together a police report after a crash. Establishing whether or not someone is under the influence of alcohol will often influence whether an officer arrests someone or not and who they declare is responsible for a collision. The most common means of establishing someone’s impairment involves having them perform a breath test, possibly after a series of field sobriety tests.

Chemical breath tests assess a sample of exhaled air to analyze it for the presence of certain chemical compounds. The device can then turn the compounds it detects into a specific percentage to represent someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). For most drivers in standard vehicles, the legal limit for their BAC is 0.08%. What happens after someone performs a breath test and has a higher result than that?

They will likely face immediate arrest

Police officers will typically arrest anyone who fails a breath test during a traffic stop or at the scene of a car crash. From there, the officer put together a report that helps present the evidence that they have about the case to the prosecutor. The prosecutor will ask a judge to bring impaired driving charges. It is common for those arrested for drunk driving offenses to secure their release after arraignment pending trial. A very high percentage of those accused of impaired driving plead guilty because they believe that they cannot fight back when they have failed the chemical breath test. However, they are operating under an incorrect assumption, as breath tests are far from perfect.

Some people prove the test was wrong

Although there is solid science behind the idea of chemical breath testing, there are also many reasons why devices may return false positives, elevated readings and completely inaccurate results. Police officers failed to calibrate the devices or install software updates. Drivers follow special diets or take medications that trick the device into producing a false positive result.

Breath tests frequently fail, and challenging the results of the chemical test is one of the more common defense strategies after getting arrested. Realizing that failing a breath test doesn’t automatically translate to a drunk driving conviction might help people motivate themselves to seek legal guidance instead of pleading guilty as a matter of course.