Blown Away: Why Police Rely On Faulty Breathalyzers "The machines are often unreliable and they generate skewed results — whether too high or too low — with alarming frequency," New York Times reporter Jessica Silver-Greenberg told us.

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Blown Away: Why Police Rely On Faulty Breathalyzers

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Blown Away: Why Police Rely On Faulty Breathalyzers

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Blown Away: Why Police Rely On Faulty Breathalyzers

Blown Away: Why Police Rely On Faulty Breathalyzers

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/776806826/776891643" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Bill Chastain, State Director with LifeSafer, demonstrates a breath alcohol ignition interlock device during a "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" press conference. PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES hide caption

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PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Bill Chastain, State Director with LifeSafer, demonstrates a breath alcohol ignition interlock device during a "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" press conference.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

At what point are you too drunk to drive?

In some states, that can turn out to be a trick question: not because the standard is fuzzy, but because the testing equipment gives results that may not be reliable.

Machines to test blood alcohol content have been around for decades, including some small enough to fit on the ignition of your car. But a new investigation from The New York Times shows that the testing equipment used in many law enforcement agencies is far from accurate.

People have ended up behind bars over dubious results and, possibly, others who were truly drunk may have gone free. How did this happen and how can we make the system fair?

We spoke to Jessica Silver-Greenberg, one of the reporters behind The New York Times investigation; Joseph Bernard, a defense attorney for drunk driving cases in Massachusetts; and Jan Semenoff, a forensic criminalist, retired police officer and the editor of Counterpoint Journal.

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