Breath testing is by far the most widely used type of chemical testing for DUI investigations in Georgia. It is time efficient for police officers who do not necessarily want to have their time taken up waiting for a blood draw at a hospital. Plus it eliminates the need for additional witnesses at trial, such as the nurse who drew the blood and the toxicologist who tested the blood sample.
Instead of taking you to the hospital for a blood test, most officers prefer to take you directly to the jail where there are usually 1 to 3 Intoxilyzer machines that will analyze your breath sample and print a test slip indicating your blood alcohol level ("BAC"). It is fairly easy for an officer to operate the Intoxilyzer machine by simply inserting a clean and sterile mouth piece into the breath tube and then, after entering in the relevant information, instructing the driver to blow hard into the tube.
However, breath testing has many limitations. It cannot test for substances other than alcohol. And it is vulnerable to user error as a result of the operators failing to comply with their training.
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Although the machine is relatively easy to operate, the operator must be very detailed-oriented in order to make sure the test result is reliable.
For instance, the operator is supposed to conduct a 20-minute observation period prior to administering the test. This is to make sure that the driver does not burp or belch in the 20-minute window prior to blowing into the breath tube. Something as simple as a burp or belch can bring up small amounts of raw alcohol from your stomach.
Introducing raw alcohol to the testing site (your mouth) will contaminate the sample. The machine is designed to measure an extremely small amount of alcohol present in your deep lung air. This is alcohol that has already been absorbed by your body and is exchanged through your blood to your lungs. When you combine that infinitesimal amount of alcohol with the raw alcohol in your stomach, by way of a burp or belch, then you have contaminated the sample and the results of your breath test will be compromised.
Despite the danger of artificially inflated breath test results, Intoxilyzer operators routinely ignore the importance of the 20-minute waiting period. Instead of actually observing a driver for the 20 minutes prior to the test, the operator may be doing paperwork, setting up the machine, or in some cases claim the observation period was conducted with the DUI suspect in the back of a patrol car, behind bullet-proof (and sound proof) glass, while driving to the jail!
There are many ways to successfully challenge the breath-testing equipment used in Georgia. However, you need to find an experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney to help mount a winning strategy, like Attorney Erin Gerstenzang. A quality defense takes into account the physiological variances of individual that was tested, the physical conditions of the location of the breath testing, the maintenance and calibration of the machine months prior to the test and the machine's history of producing inaccurate samples. Call Erin Gerstenzang, an experienced DUI attorney in Atlanta, who can determine whether your breathalyzer test may have been compromised.