Breathalyzers and the Body Temperature Defense
Sources of Error in Breath Testing (Part One)
Deviations in the normal body temperature can result in an error in the evidentiary breath test. In his article “Body Temperature and the Breathalyzer Boobytrap,” 721 Mich B.J. (1982), Dr. Hlastala confirms that the normal body temperature of a healthy person may”may vary by as much as 1 degree centigrade above or below the normal mean value of 37 degrees centigrade or 1.8 degrees F from the mean value of 98.6 degrees F.” The higher the body temperature, the greater the error rate of the breathalyzer machine. LaBianca in, “The Myth of Breath Test Accuracy, What the Studies Have Really Shown,” 5 DWI Journal: Law & Science 11 (November 1990) concludes that for every one degree centigrade change in alveolar air temperature, the conversion ratio, and the percent blood alcohol content changes by 6.5%. See also Jones, “How Breathing Techniques Can Influence the Results of Breath Alcohol Analysis,” 22 Med.Sci. Law 275-280 (1982). This defense is available in the summer when outdoor activities can elevate the core body temperature and in winter time when fever, illness or sitting in front of a heater can raise the core body temperature. See also Barone, Defending Drunk Drivers, Second ed., Vol. 1, Sec. 223.8 and Taylor, Drunk Driving Defense, 6th Ed., at 440. The increase in body temperature may also cause a falsely high reading by raising the humidity of the breath sample, because breath with a higher concentration of moisture will contain more alcohol. How could an Ohio prosecutor argue that humidity is not a factor in our Ohio summers?
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