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How legitimate are breathalyzer tests?

There can be many parts to a DUI prosecution. First, prosecutors may have to show that the initial stop that led to the arrest was legal. Second, they will likely have to prove that evidence collected by police officers, as well as witness accounts, is enough to demonstrate that the accused individual is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Although this is a high burden of proof to meet, many individuals who are accused of drunk driving may find themselves facing evidence that seems nearly impossible to overcome. However, even the strongest evidence can have weaknesses that can be successfully attacked to protect a defendant’s legal rights.

One area where this strategy can come into play is breathalyzer tests. To those who are not experts in the field, these tests can seem scientific in nature. After all, a machine captures one’s breath and analyzes it for alcohol content. If this test were accurate from a scientific standpoint, then their results would be trustworthy and fair. However, studies have shown that these tests can be error-prone.

In fact, one study found that breathalyzer tests can have a margin of error of 50 percent compared to blood tests used to analyze alcohol content. How significant is this? Very significant. It means that a driver who is subjected to a breathalyzer test that indicates he or she is over the legal limit may in fact be within the legal limit.

With that being said, the courts are ready to accept breathalyzer test results as evidence of a driver’s intoxication. However, there may still be errors during the administration of these tests that could taint the results. An experienced attorney will know how to spot these issues and exploit them to a defendant’s advantage. Hopefully this will lead to the suppression of evidence and, perhaps, a dismissal or an acquittal.

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James L. Riotto
Criminal Defense Lawyer

James L. Riotto is an accomplished criminal defense attorney serving clients in New York. With an extensive background in law enforcement and criminal prosecution, his approach to each case is unique and informed by years of experience with the New York criminal justice system. As a graduate from Albany Law School and before going on to start his own practice, James worked at the Albany County District Attorney's Office, where he helped prosecute many DWI offenses. His inside knowledge of the tactics used to gain convictions provides him with a particular advantage when defending against DUI and other criminal charges.

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Adam Staier
Of Counsel

About Attorney Adam Staier has spent the last seven years practicing criminal defense law throughout upstate New York and the Capital Region. He began his legal career through internships in civil law, indigent legal representation and federal energy law regulation. Finding a passion in criminal law, Mr. Staier held internships handling both prosecution and defense…

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