Like law enforcement agencies elsewhere in the country, New Hampshire police departments use portable breath testing machines to validate arrests when officers suspect a driver of being under the influence. What you might not know is that the results of those breath tests might not be admissible in court.
Instead, they are a tool to establish probable cause for your arrest. This is because PBTs are not always accurate.
What could invalidate my breath test results?
Many factors affect readings taken by PBTs. Below are some of the most common reasons breath tests are unreliable.
- Human error: Inadequate training or attention to detail affects results.
- Foreign substances: Mouthwash, breath fresheners or other substances containing alcohol can cause false positives.
- Software: Like any other computer, occasional glitches or bugs corrupt a PBT’s operating system.
- Calibration: If a PBT is not periodically calibrated, or the batteries are not changed occasionally, the machine might not work properly.
- Consistency: Performing multiple breath tests helps ensure accuracy of the results.
- Environmental factors: Fumes from paint or varnish or chemicals from plastics or adhesives can trigger false results.
Your attorney will more than likely explore whether any of these factors existed at the time your breath test was done.
So what happens if there was a problem with my breath test?
Because the officer used the breath test to establish probable cause to arrest you, invalidating the results could also invalidate the probable cause. This means that the officer had no legal basis for your arrest, and the charges against you might be dismissed.
Ensuring the accuracy of your breath test is just one of the reasons why you should hire an attorney as quickly as possible after your arrest. Your attorney must also investigate the initial traffic stop, blood test results and other factors. In fact, any evidence that might be presented in court requires scrutiny to make sure no one violated your civil rights.
The legal penalties associated with a conviction can have a detrimental impact on your life, but the consequences often do not end there. Your personal and professional lives often suffer as well.