If you are one of the over 1 million people per year who law enforcement officers arrest on alleged DUI charges based on the results of a breathalyzer test, you and your attorney may well want to challenge the results of that test in court. The New York Times recently conducted an extensive nationwide investigation into the reliability of breathalyzers. 

The stunning results revealed that numerous brands of breathalyzers can — and often do — show blood alcohol concentrations of up to 40% too high. The devices with the worst track record include the following: 

  • Alco Sensor IV 
  • Alcotest 7110 
  • Alcotest 9510 
  • DataMaster 
  • Intoxilyzer 8000 
  • Intoxilyzer 9000 

In recent years, many states and cities have thrown out thousands of DUI convictions once the problems with the breathalyzer machines came to light. For instance, Massachusetts recently sent letters to nearly 29,000 people convicted of DUI informing them that they have the right to a new trial. New Jersey expects another 13,000 people to demand new trials for the same reason. Washington, D.C. notified 350 attorneys whose clients had been likewise convicted of DUI based on breathalyzer tests that their clients also can ask to have their cases reopened. 

Other states have likewise begun questioning breathalyzer test results, including the following: 

  • Colorado 
  • Minnesota 
  • New Jersey 
  • New York 
  • Washington 

In 2018, a Queens County, N.Y., court dismissed a DUI case wherein the reliability of the breathalyzer officers used came into question. 

Breathalyzer device problems run the gamut from improper calibration to foreign substances in the mouthpiece to software glitches to environmental factors. For instance, if a test subject’s breath temperature exceeds 93.2 degrees, inaccurately high test results are almost sure to follow. However, Washington discovered that its Alcotest 9510 devices failed to measure test subjects’ breath temperature. 

The New York Times’s headline says it all: “These machines can put you in jail. Don’t trust them.”