Breath testing is also an inaccurate method of testing blood alcohol level, which is the important issue. Alcohol level on the breath itself has no effect on a person, as it is only when alcohol enters the bloodstream, which takes it to the control centers of the brain, that a person becomes affected. The desire for an immediate and simple testing method, without the messy extraction and storage of body fluids, has clouded the collective judgment of those in law enforcement. Officer can wrap up cases quickly, and have the results when they make an arrest and write their reports, and can tailor those reports accordingly. I have seen cases wherein officers misread the results, yet the physical observations of the defendant in their reports corresponded with what they believed to be the readings.
A number of companies now market breath-testing devices to law enforcement, and greatly exaggerate the reliability of those devices. Some companies even claim that their devices can eliminate the possibility of false positives due to incorrect sampling, or the reading of substances that mimic and appear to be alcohol, when they in fact are not. This is discussed in more detail below.
All breath-testing devices are inaccurate, even when reading within the allowed margin of error of the machine. There is an inherent allowed margin of error of ± .01, even if the machine is "reading accurately". In addition, there is a difference in the way that breath machines read different people who otherwise have the same blood alcohol level. This is based on such factors as sex, weight, and even body type.
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