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North Carolina DWI Breathalyzer Explained

Law enforcement in every state uses some type of breath testing machine to determine the blood alcohol content, or BAC, of suspected drunk drivers. In North Carolina, officers use the either Intox EC/IR or Intoxilyzer 5000. These machines, like all other breathalyzers, are designed to determine the amount of alcohol in your body by measuring the amount of alcohol found on your breath. It is important to note that the breathalyzer test is not the same as the portable breath test, or PBT, that is administered at the roadside. Rather, this test is taken at the police station. Although the results of a breathalyzer test can be used against you in court, the machine infallible; nor are the individuals who conduct the tests.

Breathalyzer Testing Procedures

In conducting an Intox EC/IR or Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test, law enforcement must abide by pre-established testing protocol. Before the test, you must be advised that you are allowed to have a witness present. If you choose to exercise this right, the test administrator must wait 30 minutes to allow the witness time to arrive. It is also required by law that the individual who is administering the test be properly trained and possess the correct credentials. The administrator must then perform two tests, the results of which must be within 0.02 percent of each other.

Breath Test Defenses

Certain variables may result in an incorrect test result. For example, if you burp or vomit before the test, there could be an increased build up of alcohol in your mouth that would artificially inflate your test reading.

The machine itself must be calibrated properly. Your attorney may request to maintenance records to ensure calibration, or even the results of breath tests that were conducted before and after your test to see if there are any unusual patterns in the results produced by the machine.

Perhaps the greatest flaw of the breathalyzer is that it does not measure your alcohol at the time you were driving, rather after you have been investigated, arrested and taken back to the station. Your BAC could have risen significantly during that time. Depending on the timeline, it may be possible for your attorney to show that your BAC was actually below the legal limit while you were driving.

If you are facing a DWI in North Carolina and your breath test results were at or above the legal limit, you still need to work with a qualified attorney who understands the law. There are many ways to defend yourself against a breathalyzer reading that could greatly increase your chances of having a favorable outcome in your case.