More than 1 million Americans are arrested each year for DUI after failing breath tests designed to measure the blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of the suspected drunk driver.

However, an investigation by the New York Times finds the devices used to administer breath tests across the country produce erroneous results with an alarming frequency.

Breath test evidence thrown out in several states

During the past year, judges in New Jersey and Massachusetts alone, have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests, citing human errors and negligent oversight by authorities. Thousands of other results have also been tossed across the country.

Some manufacturers tout their machines as being accurate to within 0.001%. However, the Times investigation found multiple instances where results were as much as 40% too high, occurring at police stations with lax standards or due to officers without the proper training to administer tests.

Common reasons for false breath test readings

There are many explanations why Breathalyzers and other products can produce false readings, including:

  • Administering the test too soon after someone drinks alcohol
  • Medical conditions, such as acid reflux, diabetes and hypoglycemia
  • Contamination of the breath test device
  • Improper calibration of the machine
  • Electronic interference from radios, cell phones and walkie-talkies
  • An untrained officer administers test

Georgia adjusts “implied consent” law after court ruling

In most states, you can lose your driver’s license for up to a year for just refusing to take a breath test. However, law enforcement agencies are reconsidering their so-called implied consent policies after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the refusal of a breath test being used as evidence against you is unconstitutional. However, refusing a blood test can still be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Consult an attorney when charged with DUI

A DUI conviction can have long-lasting and devastating personal and financial effects. If convicted, you face fines and fees, jail time, loss of driving privileges and insurance costs that can double or triple. An experienced DUI defense attorney will protect your rights by questioning whether officers had a valid reason to stop you, and that sobriety tests were administered correctly.