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How reliable are chemical tests?

After getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, a police officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. While these tests don’t measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), they give police officers probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving.

When facing a DUI charge, you may have to submit to chemical testing under Georgia’s implied consent law to determine how much alcohol is in your system.

But can you trust the results of these chemical tests?

Urine tests

Urine tests are generally the least accurate of the chemical tests. A standard urine test will uncover the presence of alcohol, but it usually takes at least two hours before showing up. In addition, alcohol only stays in your urine for up to 24 hours. Police officers may ask for urine samples if there are no other alternatives.

Recently, ethyl glucuronide tests (EtG) have become a more popular and effective way to test alcohol levels in urine. Ethyl glucuronide, a breakdown product of ethanol, remains in your system for three to five days. However, these tests cannot determine current levels of impairment.

Breath tests

Police rely heavily upon breath tests to detect the level of alcohol on your breath. Police can administer breath tests on the scene without having to wait hours — or days — for lab results. This makes breath tests a quick method that lead to immediate results.

However, breath tests have come under fire recently because they have been found to produce inaccurate results. There are several factors that can trigger false positives in breath tests. Certain foods, teeth-cleaning products and calibration errors can end up leading to wrongful convictions.

Blood tests

Blood tests usually produce the most accurate results. However, they are also the most invasive and expensive tests. A doctor will draw blood and send it in for lab analysis. Like with urine samples, police and doctors are usually working within a time limit. The presence of alcohol will only remain in your blood for up to six hours.

Even though blood tests are the most accurate of the chemical tests, there’s always room for error. Contaminated test tubes, improper sample storage and human error can affect the accuracy of blood tests and may skew the results.

Although some chemical tests are more reliable than others, it can be worth it to fight a DUI charge. Even the most conclusive evidence might have been based on error, whether it occurred in the administration process or in the analysis of your results.

A false reading can lead to a wrongful conviction. Fighting against your DUI charges may help reduce your penalties and minimize the impact a DUI can have on your future.