Deep Flaws in DWI Breath Test Revealed Again

It's reasonable to assume that if the government gives you a test to determine if you've broken the law, the test will be a reliable one. Unfortunately, this assumption is incorrect. The DWI breath test, routinely administered in traffic stops around Texas, is unreliable, according to research published in the Journal for Forensic Sciences.

It's not just the breath tests in Texas that are flawed; breath test technology simply isn't advanced enough to give reliably accurate results, writes Dr. Michael P. Hlastala in his paper.

Unequal Under the Law

Hlastala says "the breath test is fairer for some subjects than others." It might not be fair for you, but the same test might be fair for someone who is heavier, or has greater lung capacity, or who takes in more air when they inhale, or has some other physical trait more compatible with the test that measures alcohol content in exhaled breath.

In fact, writes the doctor, the alcohol contained in exhaled air is more an indication of a person's breathing patterns than it is the alcohol level in their system. That's why there is such "a large variation" in test results: the test is dependent on how you breathe, not on how much alcohol you've consumed or how impaired you might be.

Time for Reevaluation

Hlastala suggests that forensic scientists reevaluate the scientific credibility of the DWI breath test. He suggests, too, that lawmakers reevaluate the legal significance the test holds in court: "Given the variation in the breath alcohol test, it might be appropriate to consider decreasing the importance of threshold levels for penalties."

In other words, reduce the penalties given to people who fail the flawed breath test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). Better yet, it might be time to shelve the defective test and develop new, reliable technology. Reliable test results would be much more likely to produce fair results in court, too.

Protecting Rights and Freedom

As things stand, people accused of failing the DWI breath test face a wide range of serious penalties if they're convicted. If you face a charge of driving while impaired, contact a Texas criminal defense lawyer experienced in defending DUI/DWI charges. A DWI attorney knows the law, understands the flaws in BAC breath tests and recognizes improper police procedure.