Certain conditions can affect field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2016 | Drunk Driving

While it can be stressful for anyone to end up on the side of the road facing a field sobriety test, there are certain drivers who are at a higher risk for failing than others. Researchers have discovered that some internal and external conditions can increase the likelihood of a false positive, making it trickier to tell whether a driver is actually drunk. If any of the following apply to you, be aware that you may be more likely to fail a sobriety test.


AlcoholProblemsandSolutions.org reports that breath analyzers identify compounds containing the methyl group structure, not just alcohol, and that can include 70 to 80 percent of compounds in the human breath at any given time. Each slightly different compound relates to a higher alcohol breath concentration, even when that person has not consumed alcohol. Diabetics, for example, often have high levels of acetone, which can be falsely detected as alcohol. Drivers who are currently dieting can also exhibit these high levels of acetone and be mistaken as drunk.


The driver’s body temperature can also have a significant impact on the reading given by the breath analyzer. Reported BAC will rise approximately eight percent for each degree the subject’s temperature is above normal. If the officer neglects to adjust it for air temperature, that can also impact the findings.


Having contact with certain substances can lead to a higher BAC reading. Certain professions, like painting, put drivers at a higher risk of a false positive. Painting a room for as short as 20 minutes can produce a BAC of 0.75, even if the subject is wearing a protective mask. Applying contact cement and oil-based paint for one hour also showed an increased BAC of 0.12, even though the subject didn’t consume alcohol. Being around these objects when administering the test can also lead to false positives.


Having a lower blood hematocrit level than normal can also lead to inaccurate results. One study found that certain breath analyzers assume a hematocrit value of 47 percent, but a person’s levels can range from 37 to 52 percent, depending on gender and genetics. This is something that is an unknown factor to the officer and driver and is impossible to control.

If you have been convicted of a DUI, outside factors may have given you a false positive or caused your BAC to appear higher than it actually was. An experienced attorney can help you fight for your rights and ensure fair treatment for your case.