There are a lot of misconceptions about the breathalyzers that police officers use to measure the blood alcohol content (BAC) readings of drivers. This brief article was written to dispel some of the more common misunderstandings and to provide some helpful information.

Misconception #1: Mints and/or breath fresheners can mask or even lower a BAC reading. 

Truth: Mints and breath fresheners do not affect the amount of alcohol that is in your breath. While they mask the odor, this has no bearing on the breathalyzer. In fact, some mouthwash products actually contain alcohol.

Misconception #2: Breathalyzers pick up only alcohol.

Truth: Breathalyzers can pick up substances other than alcohol if they contain compounds that have a similar chemical structure. Some products that can cause a breathalyzer to falsely indicate the presence of alcohol include paint fumes, rubbing alcohol, varnish and even some cleaning products. Also, acetone could cause a false indication. Diabetics and those with high protein diets can have acetone present in their breath.

Misconception #3: If someone permits a breathalyzer test, it will always be allowed in court. 

Truth: There are really two types of breathalyzer tests. The first one is used by officers for screening purposes and is known as the Preliminary Breathalyzer Test (PBT). These are the ones people typically think of where it is administered on the side of the road. These are almost never allowed into court. The second test is administered at the police station with a much larger and more accurate machine. The results from this type of breathalyzer are typically admissible in court. 

These are the top three most common misunderstandings about breathalyzers. The next four items are the top three things about breathalyzers that the attorneys at Michling Plaza & Associates, P.C. want you to know.

Important Fact #1: People have the right to refuse taking the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) without consequence to their driving privileges. When someone is pulled over because the officer believes they are driving under the influence, the officer must first establish probable cause before an arrest can be made. This probable cause is provided for if someone submits to the PBT. If the driver doesn't submit to the test, then the officer must establish probable cause to arrest through his observations including slurred speech, odor, red eyes, inability to obey instructions, and the like. It is important to note that someone cannot refuse to take the second test (usually administered at the police station) without having a statutory 12-month suspension of their driving privileges. 

Important Fact #2: Drivers have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney. It is highly recommended that they exercise them both. As it pertains to driving under the influence offenses, the delivery of speech is typically more important than its content. For instance, a driver may just be telling the police officer about his day which, most likely, is arbitrary and contains no admission. However, the words may be slurred or the driver may be mumbling. These speech impediments are more damaging than the words themselves. 

Important Fact #3: Field sobriety tests are not as accurate as people, or police officers, think. While it is important that a driver does their best at these tests, failing a portion or two is not all that compelling against the driver. There are many studies that have shown that these various tests are not nearly as accurate as many people think. You can find a very good article on the topic HERE (

Important Fact #4: An officer must qualify as an expert before being allowed to testify on certain topics. Not every police officer is experienced with DUI offenses. Therefore, not every officer can testify accurately as to whether they observed the signs of intoxication. In our preparation for trial, Michling Plaza & Associates, P.C. always looks at the qualifications of every police officer that is going to testify. Many law firms miss this critical first step. 

A DUI charge is serious and can have a lasting impact on a person's ability to work, travel, and participate in day-to-day activities. A driver facing these consequences needs to speak with an experienced attorney. AT Michling Plaza & Associates, P.C., we determine the best strategy to make sure they are treated fairly and that justice is reached. Contact us today for a free consultation.