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Critiquing breathalyzer accuracy

One who has been arrested and charged with drunk driving in Paterson may believe that challenging such an accusation is impossible (especially if what prompted their arrest was the result of a roadside breath test. Yet breathalyzer accuracy has long been debated; indeed, information shared by the National Motorists Association shows that the margin of error on such devices can be as high as 50 percent? How could the results of such a test potentially be so far off? To answer that question, one must first understand why breath is used as a good measurement of one’s blood alcohol content in the first place.

The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership offers an answer. The alcohol used in drinks is ethanol, which is a water-soluble compound. This means that after alcohol has been ingested, its ethanol content will pass through the membranes of the stomach and the intestines in a process known as passive diffusion. It then enters the bloodstream, where it cis then carried to various parts of the body (which explains how alcohol can affect one so comprehensively) before returning to the heart.

Once in the heart, the oxygenated blood is passed into the lungs, where it vaporizes upon coming into content with the air. That vaporized ethanol is then expelled out of the lungs (and the body) when one breathes. More ethanol is vaporized in order to maintain equilibrium with its concentrations in the blood, and is expelled. This notion of the body’s BAC slowly decreasing with each breath may allow initial breathalyzer results to be challenged. The fluid nature of BAC due to the body’s processes for metabolizing and processing of alcohol may mean that it is virtually impossible to get the same result with every test.

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