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THE TYNDALL EFFECT: How Airbags Can Make Breath Tests Inaccurate

We’ve handled many cases in which one of our clients has had a couple of drinks and gets into an accident. Many times, if the police suspect that a driver has ingested any amount of alcohol, he or she will be arrested for DUI. For better or worse, the circumstances of a car accident make assessing standard investigatory evidence confusing. Before beginning a formal DUI investigation, police usually notice the odor of alcohol emitting from an individual’s car, glassy eyes, slurred speech, and a unsteady demeanor. Considering the anxiety and adrenaline produced during almost any type or car accident, the physical and mental condition of any driver involved may mirror the initial signs of DUI. Individuals may also be so shaken up as fail or be unable to perform their field tests, and misunderstand the importance their Implied Consent Rights. In addition, there is the Tyndall Effect.

The Tyndall Effect happens when light is scattered by particles. It pertains to breath testing, because breath test machines use infrared lasers to assess how much alcohol is in your breath. In essence, once a breath sample is giving, a breath test machine determines the amount of alcohol in your breath by assessing how the light was obscured by the alcohol particles. Airbags are packed with fine powder for preservation purposes. When they are deployed during an accident, the powder can easily get into your lungs. So when a breath test is taken after an accident, the powder used in airbags can obscure the infrared light in the breath test machine and produce inaccurate readings. If it’s the Tyndall Effect or another inaccuracy or impropriety, we seize any and all opportunities for a strong, sound Georgia DUI Defense and always strive to get our clients the best result no matter what the evidence or circumstance.