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Why failing a breath test does not always mean an OUI conviction

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2018 | Criminal Defense

As you are driving home, police officers stop you. They ask you to take a breath test and you comply; the results indicate an illegal breath alcohol count. Now you face an OUI case against you.

In this situation, many people make the major mistake of just giving up. Instead of consulting a lawyer, they plead guilty and accept the often burdensome consequences. After all, what is there to do when the prosecution has your failed breath test?

The evidence may not be as strong as you think

In fact, there may be several effective ways to fight such a case. Experienced attorneys are aware of them and can often develop an effective defense strategy. For this reason, it is important to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as you can after your arrest instead of assuming you already lost.

Reasons breath tests can make mistakes

Many people think breath tests always yield completely accurate results. However, several factors other than an illegal level of alcohol consumption can substantially affect readings.

First, any machine is only as good as its operator. Field breath test units do not always receive the proper maintenance and calibration they need to work properly. Second, falsely high readings can occur when mouth alcohol is retained; this often happens to people with dentures or other structures in their mouths that can cause alcohol to pool. Third, certain medical conditions and work environments can lead to high levels of acetone or ketones in the breath, which many breath test models interpret as alcohol.

Not all stops are legal

Additionally, in order to stop you in the first place, police officers must have probable cause (excluding stops at properly set-up sobriety checkpoints). This generally means they must have a reasonable belief that you committed or are in the process of committing an illegal act. Common examples of legitimate reasons to stop a driver include breaking traffic rules and erratic driving. If a car accident occurs, police officers are also generally justified in testing involved drivers for alcohol or other substances.

Getting the right help can avoid unnecessary guilty pleas

The rules of probable cause and evidence contain many complexities. What you may think is a strong case against you can turn out to rest on flimsy grounds. Consulting a qualified attorney before making decisions in your OUI case can help you avoid making serious mistakes.


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