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When holiday parties lead to DUI stops

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One thing that the residents of New Orleans know how to do is throw a party. During the holidays, you could end up attending several of them, and more than likely, there will be alcohol. Having a few drinks with friends, co-workers or family may not seem harmful, but if you get behind the wheel afterward, it could cause a great deal of harm.

More than likely, you wouldn't consider drinking and driving, so when you left that holiday party, you probably felt as though you were okay to drive. Then, your luck changed, and a police officer pulled you over for one reason or another. Now, you face arrest for DUI as the officer brings out a breath-testing machine.

The 411 on breath testing machines

You probably already know that no two people process alcohol the same way. While you may be able to function perfectly fine after a couple of drinks, someone else may already be buzzed or even drunk after the same amount of alcohol. The problem is that breath-testing machines don't care what your tolerance is, they only test the amount of alcohol circulating through your body.

The man who invented the breath testing machine back in 1954 recognized that police needed a non-invasive way to determine intoxication for an arrest. He discovered that if a sample of breath from the bottom of the lungs could be captured, it could tell officers how much alcohol flows through a person's bloodstream. While his invention did revolutionize the way police handle drunk driving stops, the flaws in the machines continue to return false positive results.

This means that the machine may indicate that your blood alcohol concentration is at or above the Louisiana limit of .08, but it may not actually be accurate. So many things such as the outside air, your health and your diet can affect the results. If you happen to be a diabetic or are on a low carb diet, the machine may say you are drunk.

How is that fair?

Well, it's not fair, but that doesn't stop law enforcement agencies across the country from relying on breath testing machines to make arrests. Thereafter, it is up to you to challenge the results of the breath test. Even if you refuse to take the roadside breath test, a prosecutor could use that information to try to make it appear as if you had a guilty conscience, which explains why you didn't provide a breath sample on the side of the road.

This illustrates the extent to which people believe in the accuracy of breath testing machines. If they knew just how fallible the machines really are, they wouldn't give them much credence when it comes to establishing guilt in a court of law.

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Craig E. Gibbs, Attorney at Law
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