Question: How accurate is the official breath alcohol test in Maryland?

Answer: I think they are pretty accurate. All things being equal, I mean there are things that can happen, which we can talk about in a second, but a normal blow where it hasn’t been, the breath has not been delivered in an aggressive fashion and if there is no mouth alcohol or nothing unusual going on, then yeah, I think that for the most part are probably fairly accurate, particularly if they are properly calibrated and utilized.

Now, there are a number of factors that the defense is certainly aware of that can impact these machines. One of them would be when the police officers tell you to blow as hard as you possibly can, take a deep breath, continue to blow, you know, excessively, things like this can actually impact the machine because when you’re blowing that hard, you’re blowing every last bit of air that you may have in your lungs, and that is going to associate with any ethanol alcohol that you have in the air passage, and the way you blow can in fact elevate the machine number as one example.

There are other, more technical examples of why these breath machines may not be accurate in some cases. These machines are based upon a certain algorithm that take for granted certain, certain characteristics of the human body, so for example, a large male is rated the same way as a small female, or a person that has great big lung capacity is still rated, or the machine uses the same exact algorithm for person who has a smaller lung capacity, and then we get into volume of air and how hard things have to be blown, and things of this nature as an example.

Or if a person is highly upset and they have a lot of mucus, they are crying their eye balls out and they have mucus in their mouth, well that is going to collect alcohol when you blow in the machine that can elevate numbers. I can go on and on. There are many different reasons why a breath alcohol test may actually NOT be accurate, but if you put those aside and just the machine itself and just have somebody, you know 10 different people blow, without anything strange going on, I think the machines are probably fairly accurate, but you can be sure that it casts a wide net and there are a number of people that get caught up in that net for one reason or another that, you know, their number was not .08 or not .09 or possibly not .10.

You can see that when you get these breath test results back and some of them, occasionally, are not within .02 of each other. And that kicks a number out. If it’s not within .02, the two numbers we use in Maryland that we use, if they are not within .02 of each other they get tossed. So, you know, that just goes to show that, sometimes it’s not a valid test. And even if it is within .02, if it’s off by .019 the state will suggest that is a valid test, but still one has to ask oneself, why is it off by .019? That’s a lot. So, that’s the situation. The machines are fairly accurate, but they certainly do make mistakes, no question about it.


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