If a police officer pulls you over for drunk driving, they might have you perform a field sobriety test. But these types of tests only indicate your level of intoxication from a physical standpoint — and many times, they aren’t even accurate.

Virginia police officers therefore depend on breath tests to charge you with a DUI. However, while people often think them to be more reliable than field sobriety tests, breath tests may not yield accurate results either.

Are breath tests unreliable?

Any person caught with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher can receive a DUI. But in recent years, scientists and lawyers have found that breath tests are not reliable enough to draw conclusive evidence that you drove under the influence of alcohol.

States like Massachusetts and New Jersey have discarded thousands of tests over the past year because of this. One Pennsylvania judge questioned the legitimacy of breath test results in DUI convictions, and many more share the same sentiment.

Factors that can skew a breath test

Breath tests are sensitive tools. While they’re relatively easy to use, calibration mistakes can lead to results that read up to 40% higher than they actually are. Additionally, scientists who have tested the machines have discovered programming mistakes that can make tests almost entirely unreliable. But there are also outside factors that can trigger a false positive, such as:

  • Mouthwashes
  • Breath fresheners
  • Topical oral medications
  • Nearby paint fumes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Operator error

Fighting a DUI charge

People face wrongful convictions on a daily basis due to unreliable breath test results. A DUI charge can lead to jail time, expensive fines, community service and driver’s license suspension. Because of the inaccurate tendencies of breath tests, it can be worth it to fight your DUI charge, especially if it minimizes the impact a conviction can have on your life.