Like most states, California has stringent guidelines in place to limit the amount of alcohol a person can have in his or her bloodstream when operating a vehicle. Blood alcohol content (BAC)—a percentage that reflects the amount of alcohol found in an individual’s bloodstream—is used to indicate a driver’s level of impairment. Officers rely on chemical testing methods to calculate BAC, with the most common of these tests being the California breathalyzer.
Under state law, any driver who has a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered unfit to operate a vehicle and can be prosecuted for drunk driving as a result. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule: drivers under 21 are prohibited from driving with any amount of alcohol in their system at all, while commercial vehicle operators are deemed impaired once their BAC reaches 0.04% or higher.
It is important to know that, due to California’s “Implied Consent Law,” you are required to submit to a breathalyzer or other chemical test if an officer suspects you of driving under the influence. If you refuse, you will not only be arrested and charged with DUI, but often face more severe penalties.
Unfortunately, breathalyzers are not the most accurate way of determining a driver’s level of impairment. Because the test is unable to distinguish alcohol from other chemicals, its results are often unreliable. In some cases, substances such as acetone and acetaldehyde (two common compounds found in a person’s breath) can be easily mistaken for alcohol. In fact, a recent study revealed that the average person’s breath contains over 100 substances—and the California breathalyzer falsely identified 70% to 80% of them as alcohol.
Many common medical disorders are also known to affect a person’s breathalyzer results. If you have diabetes or suffer from acid reflux disease, for example, your BAC may be inflated. Fasting, low-carb diets, smoking, or even using products such as breath mints or gum, can also produce inaccurate test results.
If you were recently arrested for DUI after failing a California breathalyzer, it is important to discuss your results with an attorney immediately. Research suggests that at least 15% of all breathalyzer tests are inaccurate—which means it’s very likely that your results could be unreliable as well.
To protect your rights and improve your chances of avoiding a drunk driving conviction, complete our online form today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a skilled DUI defense attorney in your area.