How Often is the Breath Test Correct?

Question: My son got stopped for DUI in Woodstock, GA when he was coming home from work. He told me he stopped at a bar in Alpharetta and met some friends from high school in Sandy Springs (he's now 27) and just had 2 beers. When he was driving home in his Honda with his girlfriend he got pulled for speeding. The cop wrote on a ticket that he was going 20 miles over the speed limit.

He took that breath test and he scored a .252. I know that's very high. But he really is not a drinker and he said he just had a couple of beers. Do you think the breath machine is wrong? I can't think of any other possible reason he'd have such a high reading for alcohol. And knowing him I'll bet he didn't even finish the beers, particularly not after an incident that happened a few years ago in South Georgia.

Answer: A reading of .252 is quite high. Alcohol levels in a breath sample are converted mathematically to derive a blood-alcohol percentage. In Georgia, a reading of .08 is considered DUI per se. A reading of .079 and below can be charged as DUI less safe. So your son's reading is over 3 times the per se limit.

This "score" is admissible in court as long as the officer did certain things which police are trained to do and the machine itself was in working order. It is unlikely that the machine was malfunctioning to such an extent that the reading from the Breathalyzer (usually the Intoxilyzer 5000) would be incorrect by such a large magnitude. However, that is open to further investigation. It does strike us as odd that someone who claims to have had only 2 beers would apparently generate such an elevated reading. Even a couple of large "high gravity" beers would be highly unlikely to cause a reading of .252.

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