Does the DUI breath test discriminate against women?
Washington DUI lawyer Ziad Youssef, founder of mytrafficman.net, has been researching this topic for several months. What he’s discovered is that the DUI machine that all drivers submit to after being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol should adjust breath results based on factors like sex, height, weight and more, but does not.
“Washington uses the breath test to predict the level of alcohol in someone’s blood, but the breath test instruments do not adjust for physiological differences between people of different sexes or ages, for example,” Youssef says.
Smaller lung capacity can affect results
This is important because in the research article Sex Differences in Respiratory Function, the authors explained the differences they discovered between respiratory systems of men and women, and concluded that statistically, women do have a smaller respiratory system, meaning a smaller lung capacity than men.
And, according to researchers Michael P. Hlastala and Joseph C. Anderson, the smaller lung capacity can have an effect on the results of a breathalyzer test.
Specifically, when the alcohol breath test is being administered, the subject is asked to inhale ambient air and then exhale into the breath test a minimum of 1.5 liters of air. According to the statistics, in order to satisfy the 1.5 liter minimum requirement, a female driver with smaller lung capacity would have to exhale deeper into her lungs than a male driver of the same height, weight and age.
Exaggerated readings possible
Youssef argues that requiring females to blow deeper into their lung capacity than men is unlawful discrimination because, according to the article Physiological Aspects of Breath-Alcohol Measurements, the majority of the alcohol exhaled from the lungs comes from the deeper section of one’s lungs.
“In other words, the closer a person is to reaching the end of their total lung capacity, the more concentrated the results will be, and that means a higher breath test reading will result,” Youssef says.
“Consequently, women are put in greater jeopardy of giving an exaggerated reading.”
Youssef suggests that if the State wants to know what intoxicants are in a driver’s blood, they shouldn’t estimate it from breath, they should justify a warrant to the judge like the 4th Amendment requires and perform a blood test.
To learn more about the research or your DUI arrest, call 360-734-0908.