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DUI Breath Testing

The evidential breath testing device employed in Georgia is the Intoxilyzer 5000. As of today probably ninety percent of the machines in use are 5000EN’s, the “enhanced” models. Like all of the other infrared breath testing instruments, the Intoxilyzer 5000 makes its calculations based on certain assumptions that are programmed into its software. There are, however, a number of issues that need to be explored. A partial list of potential problems includes:

  • The assumption that there is a constant 2100:1 ratio between the amount of alcohol in the blood as opposed to the amount in a person’s breath. During the absorptive stage the ratio may be much lower, resulting in an elevated reading.
  • The assumption that the average temperature of expelled human breath is 34 degrees centigrade. Modern studies demonstrate that the true average is closer to 35 degrees, and for every one degree difference the breath alcohol concentration will be increased by 8.6 percent. Therefore, when an individual’s breath alcohol concentration is reported as 087, that person should actually have a blood alcohol concentration of .079, even if none of the other issues are considered.
  • The outdated belief that the alcohol measured is “deep lung” or alveolar air, despite recent research leaving little doubt that the alcohol present in a breath sample is picked up from the lining of the airways, not the blood in the lower part of the lungs. The method of breathing can also have a huge impact on breath alcohol test results.
  • The Intoxilyzer 5000 will report substances other than ethanol and include them in the breath alcohol reading because those hydrocarbon compounds also have a methyl group (carbon and hydrogen atoms linked to each other). This carbon-hydrogen bond is common to numerous organic molecules such as isopropyl alcohol and toluene.
  • People who have diabetes and those on certain diets may have acetone levels much higher than the general public. This is yet another compound that may be read as ethyl alcohol by the Intoxilyzer 5000. Although the inspection protocol does check for acetone, the amount used is far in excess of a fatal dose, much less the amount you would find in someone’s breath.
  • GERD, which is the acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease. When the lower esophageal sphincter allows stomach air containing alcohol to enter the esophagus, it should have a partition ration much lower than 2100:1, which in turn will cause a false elevated breath test result.
  • Radio Frequency Interference. During the inspection of the Intoxilyzer, the RFI check is undertaken on the frequency employed by the Georgia State Patrol. RFI can become a very serious issue in BATmobile cases where dozens of officers are coming and going while their radios are squawking in the background.

There are several other potential problems that need to be considered. We keep abreast of the most recent developments in the law and breath alcohol testing, so we can serve you better.

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More about Chemical Evidence Testing for DUI

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