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Old 4th November 2019, 01:07 AM   #1
Bob001
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Breathalyzers can give false readings.

Breathalyzers can give false readings. But cops, prosecutors and defendants believe them.
Quote:
A million Americans a year are arrested for drunken driving, and most stops begin the same way: flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror, then a battery of tests that might include standing on one foot or reciting the alphabet.

What matters most, though, happens next. By the side of the road or at the police station, the drivers blow into a miniature science lab that estimates the concentration of alcohol in their blood. If the level is 0.08 or higher, they are all but certain to be convicted of a crime.

But those tests — a bedrock of the criminal justice system — are often unreliable, a New York Times investigation found. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place.

Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight. Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/b...athalyzer.html
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:27 AM   #2
McHrozni
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Breathalyzers can give false readings. But cops, prosecutors and defendants believe them.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/b...athalyzer.html
The problem is clear once you know what "precise to the third decimal place" means. To a layman it means the result can be trusted down to the third decimal place.

Haha. No.

It means the results down to the third decimal place will be consistent with other measurement of the same sample. Whether they correspond to reality or not is called "accuracy". The argument is not senmantic at all, both words are scientific terms with defined meanings. The manufacturer would know this and use the two terms appropriately.

This picture might help visualise the difference.

My best suggestion would be to not drive after drinking at all. If that fails and you have a positive breathanalyser test it might be a good idea to claim it was probably inaccurate and ask some other person (the officer perhaps) to take the test as well. If it shows a positive reading you have a solid case for a faulty breathanalyser.

I don't know whether this works with American policemen or not. It's just what I'd do as someone who deals with the accuracy/precision issues on a daily basis.

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Old 4th November 2019, 01:30 AM   #3
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Where I am, a blood test is required for prosecution. The breathalyzer is just used to se if people are to be taken in for the blood test.

Hans
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:57 AM   #4
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Over here she is mobile breathaliser.

If you are over/or refuse to take it you go to station for a breath test on a more accurate machine

Then if fail again or refuse to take it, you can request a blood test. (They don't need a blood one to prosecute)

Which 8 times out of 10 would be incredibly stupid as breathalisers allow for leeway, while blood tests are just what it is and would probably just give a worse reading.

All these scenarios for your average punter end in not being able to drive your car for 6 or 12 or 24 months

Though they might cut you some slack (judges descretion) if you agree to pay for a blow into your car to get it to start, or you apply for a special licence and pay to only drive in working hours if your job requires it and you would be sacked

Morale to the story is it is pretty dumb to not organise alternative transport when drinking
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Last edited by cullennz; 4th November 2019 at 02:02 AM.
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:11 AM   #5
Archie Gemmill Goal
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Where I am, a blood test is required for prosecution. The breathalyzer is just used to se if people are to be taken in for the blood test.

Hans
This was my understanding as well.
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Where I am, a blood test is required for prosecution. The breathalyzer is just used to se if people are to be taken in for the blood test.

Hans
In the UK a secondary test is required. It probably stops some people being prosecuted who should have been prosecuted as by the time the test is taken at the police station they may have fallen below the legal limit.
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:21 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
In the UK a secondary test is required. It probably stops some people being prosecuted who should have been prosecuted as by the time the test is taken at the police station they may have fallen below the legal limit.
Guessing the same

But here it is just a beefier more accurate breath test unless you refuse and say you want a blood test.

Which again would be a bit dim.

From my understanding breath test are toned down to allow for innacuracy (a bit like speed cameras and allowing for dodgy speedos or people who have changed tyre sizes which puts your speedo out a bit)

Blood levels are just blood levels and your screwed
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:24 AM   #8
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Should probably make a confession here that I was just over once on mobile one, then the cop drove me the "long way" to the station for an in house breath one and it was under.

If I bothered looking at his name he would still be getting xmas cards
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I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within 72-hours if a potential gun owner has a record.

Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p.102 , Jul 2, 2000
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Where I am, a blood test is required for prosecution. The breathalyzer is just used to se if people are to be taken in for the blood test.
AFAIK there are breathalyzers and then there are breathalyzers. The way it, to my knowledge, works here is that if you flunk the on-the-road breathalyzer test, you're taken to the station wherer you will be tested with a frequently-calibrated high-caliber device which, unlike the portable ones, prints out the results for court use. You will have to give a blood test if you're too sloshed to blow into the device or if there is reason to believe you are under the influence of something other than alcohol.
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Old 4th November 2019, 03:14 AM   #10
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I think the thing is disparity

In England and the US I think the limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath.

In NZ and I think Aus as well she is 50 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath.

So me on that rather embarrassing day sitting on 52 could have quite happily driven round the UK and the US.
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I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within 72-hours if a potential gun owner has a record.

Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p.102 , Jul 2, 2000
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Old 4th November 2019, 03:38 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by cullennz View Post
I think the thing is disparity

In England and the US I think the limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath.

In NZ and I think Aus as well she is 50 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath.

So me on that rather embarrassing day sitting on 52 could have quite happily driven round the UK and the US.
While the numbers might be accurate, the units are off. 100 mL of breath has a mass of about 130 mg. 50 miligrams of alcohol in 100 mL of breath means your breath is about as concentrated as hard liquor. Since you're breathing in air that then takes up alcohol from blood that would mean your blood would have to be alcohol with but a trace amount of blood ... and that you have a fever, because that alcohol needs to be boiling or close to it.

Where I live the legal driving limit is 0.24 mg/L of breath. Having some experience with intoxication I doubt the legal limits are 0.8 mg/L of breath and 0.5 mg/L of breath either, since both of those values are well above where anyone is capable of driving. They might be miligrams per liter of blood, those values would work well enough. By a crazy coincidence the alcohol content in 0.24 mg/L of breath corresponds to 50 mg/L of blood.

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Old 4th November 2019, 04:02 AM   #12
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In grand jury they associated a calibration reading from a trained operator with every drunk driving case.
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Old 4th November 2019, 04:11 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
Where I live the legal driving limit is 0.24 mg/L of breath. Having some experience with intoxication I doubt the legal limits are 0.8 mg/L of breath and 0.5 mg/L of breath either, since both of those values are well above where anyone is capable of driving. They might be miligrams per liter of blood, those values would work well enough. By a crazy coincidence the alcohol content in 0.24 mg/L of breath corresponds to 50 mg/L of blood.
If my memory serves, .5 mg/l is here the limit for an aggravated version of DUI, which allows for much more severe penalties. The regular limit is. 22mg/l, which corresponds to. 05% blood alcohol level.
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Old 4th November 2019, 04:16 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
The problem is clear once you know what "precise to the third decimal place" means. To a layman it means the result can be trusted down to the third decimal place.

Haha. No.
...
This picture might help visualise the difference.
Helpful pic is helpful.

I think of accuracy vs precision in terms of WW2 aerial bombing:
"Precision" is everyone dropping their bombs on the same town.
"Accuracy" is finding the right town.
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Old 4th November 2019, 04:21 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by timhau View Post
If my memory serves, .5 mg/l is here the limit for an aggravated version of DUI, which allows for much more severe penalties. The regular limit is. 22mg/l, which corresponds to. 05% blood alcohol level.
That would make sense.

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Old 4th November 2019, 04:25 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by cullennz View Post
If you are over/or refuse to take it you go to station for a breath test on a more accurate machine

Then if fail again or refuse to take it, you can request a blood test. (They don't need a blood one to prosecute)
Here you can be charged with refusing to submit to a test which is equivalent to the more serious charge of driving while under the influence.

A person might be able to opt for a blood test instead of a breath test but they don't have the option of refusing a test altogether.
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Old 4th November 2019, 05:14 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
My best suggestion would be to not drive after drinking at all.
I don't drink, but I know that normal people can drive just fine after a small amount of alcohol. Your suggestion concedes that the technology might not work very well, and that one might become a criminal because of it, but the solution is not to petition the authorities to change the situation, but rather avoid enjoying a harmless activity for fear of a false positive?
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Old 4th November 2019, 05:22 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
I don't drink, but I know that normal people can drive just fine after a small amount of alcohol. Your suggestion concedes that the technology might not work very well, and that one might become a criminal because of it, but the solution is not to petition the authorities to change the situation, but rather avoid enjoying a harmless activity for fear of a false positive?
At least in some places in the world, if you have a nonzero alcohol reading and get involved in a car accident, any insurance claims you might have are void regardless of your guilt or blood alcohol content. In those jurdisticions that's already a law.

Drinking by itself can be harmless enough, but driving intoxicated is an accident waiting to happen.

It helps to remember a healthy liver will metabolize approximately 0.15% blood alcohol per hour (~0.07 mg/L of breath). If you're just over the legal limit the liver will get it down to (approximately) zero in about four hours (six hours for the 0.80 mg/L limit). My strategy is therefore to have a few drinks early in the evening and then stick to non-alcoholic drinks for the later half.

The strategy is breathanalyzer-tested. I scored a zero a few hours after I had a few glasses of wine

There's no need to avoid any activity that can be made harmless. It is quite possible to drink at a party and drive home on the same evening, but not drive intoxicated. You just need a grasp of underlying mechanics and act appropriately.
But if you don't know that or can't control your drinking, the best solution is not to drive at all after drinking.

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Old 4th November 2019, 06:57 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
My best suggestion would be to not drive after drinking at all.
The key question is how long after. 24 hours would probably be safest.

A high proportion of positive tests in the UK over the Christmas period are on the morning after. People need to understand that 4 hours of sleep doesn't magically metabolise a skinful of booze.
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Old 4th November 2019, 08:08 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by timhau View Post
AFAIK there are breathalyzers and then there are breathalyzers. The way it, to my knowledge, works here is that if you flunk the on-the-road breathalyzer test, you're taken to the station wherer you will be tested with a frequently-calibrated high-caliber device which, unlike the portable ones, prints out the results for court use. You will have to give a blood test if you're too sloshed to blow into the device or if there is reason to believe you are under the influence of something other than alcohol.
The article contends that both the hand-held and office devices often are not maintained and calibrated properly, and that the manufacturers are resistant to independent assessments of their accuracy.
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Old 4th November 2019, 08:08 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
Drinking by itself can be harmless enough, but driving intoxicated is an accident waiting to happen.
In general I agree, but there is a counterintuitive factoid from Finland that was published a couple of years ago. There was a large national study of all traffic fatalities in the country during a 3 or 4 year period. One surprising fact was that while the data (of ca. 250 fatalities per year) contains a high number of lethal accidents with legally drunk (over - usually quite a bit over - the legal limit of. 05 % BAC) and many where everone was sober, the research period had zero fatal accidents involving drivers with non-zero but still legal blood alcohol levels.
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Old 4th November 2019, 08:51 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Where I am, a blood test is required for prosecution. The breathalyzer is just used to se if people are to be taken in for the blood test.

Hans
Essentially the same way here in Sweden. A road-side sobriety test is just a preliminary one, while the definite test is done at a police station with a more accurate breathalyzer or blood test.
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:17 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by timhau View Post
In general I agree, but there is a counterintuitive factoid from Finland that was published a couple of years ago. There was a large national study of all traffic fatalities in the country during a 3 or 4 year period. One surprising fact was that while the data (of ca. 250 fatalities per year) contains a high number of lethal accidents with legally drunk (over - usually quite a bit over - the legal limit of. 05 % BAC) and many where everone was sober, the research period had zero fatal accidents involving drivers with non-zero but still legal blood alcohol levels.
I've often thought that the limits are randomly fixed. In reality I suspect a curve. I wonder at what level the accident rates goes up?
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:43 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Breathalyzers can give false readings. But cops, prosecutors and defendants believe them.[/url]
Defendants believe them? What a weird thing to say.

That makes sense, actually. The one time I had to blow into one of those devices, it said I was well under the limit. Since I knew how much I'd had to drink that day, and when, I totally believed the breathalyzer.

I assume that defendants who blow over the limit also mostly believe the breathalyzer, since they know they're over the limit.

And I assume that in the rare case when someone hasn't been drinking, but they blow over the limit anyway, they absolutely do not believe the breathalyzer.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:00 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
At least in some places in the world, if you have a nonzero alcohol reading and get involved in a car accident, any insurance claims you might have are void regardless of your guilt or blood alcohol content. In those jurdisticions that's already a law.
That's insane.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:06 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Defendants believe them? What a weird thing to say.
....
What don't you understand? Defendants often/usually plead guilty because they believe that the breathalyzer reading can't be challenged. But sometimes it's wrong.

Read the article.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:15 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
What don't you understand? Defendants often/usually plead guilty because they believe that the breathalyzer reading can't be challenged. But sometimes it's wrong.

Read the article.
Not knowing that the breathalyzer can be challenged is very different from not believing its readings.

If I'd been drinking, and the breathalyzer said I'd been drinking, I'd believe it. I'd still challenge it in court, though. Assuming my lawyer knew that was a thing, and advised me to do so.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:17 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by timhau View Post
In general I agree, but there is a counterintuitive factoid from Finland that was published a couple of years ago. There was a large national study of all traffic fatalities in the country during a 3 or 4 year period. One surprising fact was that while the data (of ca. 250 fatalities per year) contains a high number of lethal accidents with legally drunk (over - usually quite a bit over - the legal limit of. 05 % BAC) and many where everone was sober, the research period had zero fatal accidents involving drivers with non-zero but still legal blood alcohol levels.
I think that is just an accurate reflection of Finnish drinking habits. A Finn is either sober or sloshed, they do not half-ass their drinking.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:39 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Not knowing that the breathalyzer can be challenged is very different from not believing its readings.
....

Defendants often believe that the machine can't be challenged because its reading is accurate.
Quote:
.....The reality, though, was that most of those 700-plus cases had ended in guilty pleas by defendants who thought, wrongly, that prosecutors had infallible scientific evidence that they were drunk.
Read the link.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/b...athalyzer.html
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:45 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Defendants often believe that the machine can't be challenged because its reading is accurate.


Read the link.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/b...athalyzer.html
I've read the link. I doubt the NYT actually knows this:

"The reality, though, was that most of those 700-plus cases had ended in guilty pleas by defendants who thought, wrongly, that prosecutors had infallible scientific evidence that they were drunk."

For a fact.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:25 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I've read the link. I doubt the NYT actually knows this:

"The reality, though, was that most of those 700-plus cases had ended in guilty pleas by defendants who thought, wrongly, that prosecutors had infallible scientific evidence that they were drunk."

For a fact.
Never plead guilty. That's Rumpole's legal advice.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:30 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
In the UK a secondary test is required. It probably stops some people being prosecuted who should have been prosecuted as by the time the test is taken at the police station they may have fallen below the legal limit.
The at the scene breathalyser is followed up by a secondary test. That is most commonly on a more sophisticated breathalyser, which, if the reading is above a certain level (50 IIRC), it is accepted to be correct. Below that, but above the legal limit and blood is taken.

I never came across a failed breath test that subsequently turned out to be someone who was under the limit. I did come across some who passed the breath test, but were clearly very drunk.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:36 AM   #33
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Around 25 years ago I was on a jury for the trial of a young woman accused of DUI. The best the public defender could do was to say she'd had only one beer and the machine must have been wrong.
The prosecution had a State Trooper who was responsible for maintaining the machine used for testing at the station. He had a detailed schematic and explained how the machine worked and how it was maintained.
We had little choice but to find her guilty.
About six months later the State Supreme Court threw out every conviction ever registered through the use of that specific machine. I never heard any more detail but suspect that the trooper was deliberately miscalibrating it to get more convictions.
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Old 4th November 2019, 12:02 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Breathalyzers can give false readings. But cops, prosecutors and defendants believe them.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/b...athalyzer.html
It's a good tool to have in hand during a traffic stop.

In California, a driver that wants to dispute the ST and breathalyzer test is entitled to request and go through the blood test.

IME, there are folks that can't pass the ST for whatever reason that aren't impaired by substances but I've never seen someone blow a breathalyzer and fail that wasn't under the influence of alcohol..
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Old 4th November 2019, 12:26 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Defendants often believe that the machine can't be challenged because its reading is accurate.


Read the link.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/b...athalyzer.html
That might be the case where you are, but here if you be a smart **** and challenge it they just make you take a blood test and you virtually always end up worse off, given levels of accuracy of blood tests and breath test compensating for chances of misreading
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Old 4th November 2019, 12:28 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
I've often thought that the limits are randomly fixed. In reality I suspect a curve. I wonder at what level the accident rates goes up?
If my memory serves, it took a sharp upward turn at .06% BAC. After .10% it climbs to the max very quickly.

I think Dr. Keith is on the right track, but it's probably mostly about our drink & drive habits. DUI carries a very serious social stigma here, and while "Sorry, I don't touch alcohol" may get long looks occasionally, "Sorry, I'm driving" never ever does. Very few people game the limit.
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Old 4th November 2019, 12:51 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by timhau View Post
If my memory serves, it took a sharp upward turn at .06% BAC. After .10% it climbs to the max very quickly.

I think Dr. Keith is on the right track, but it's probably mostly about our drink & drive habits. DUI carries a very serious social stigma here, and while "Sorry, I don't touch alcohol" may get long looks occasionally, "Sorry, I'm driving" never ever does. Very few people game the limit.
It came off more mean than I interned but my first experience with people actually taking DUI laws seriously was in East Berlin. The driver we were with laughed at the thought of having a beer with lunch. This was back in the eighties, and at the time MADD was the butt of jokes back home.
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:26 PM   #38
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Again, I doubt that anyone who hadn't been drinking, but who got a false positive from a breathalyzer, would plead guilty in court because they believed there was scientific proof that they'd been drinking.

What I think is much more likely is people who have been drinking, who get a real positive, and think that means they have to plead guilty, rather than contest the breathalyzer.
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:40 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Again, I doubt that anyone who hadn't been drinking, but who got a false positive from a breathalyzer, would plead guilty in court because they believed there was scientific proof that they'd been drinking.

What I think is much more likely is people who have been drinking, who get a real positive, and think that means they have to plead guilty, rather than contest the breathalyzer.
Neither of these statements is wrong. However, this has more has to do with when those who were drinking and didn't think they were legally drunk decided they must have been and were legally cooked because science.

That is pretty common. I'd add that it is more science + lack of resources and time to drag it through a jury trial they may lose anyway + tolerable plea offer.
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:05 PM   #40
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Another good reason why I do not want a mandatory breathalyzer in my car. There is a recent thread here regarding this. I wonder if this new thread will change anyone's mind?
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