Residual Alcohol Can Result in an Inaccurate DUI Breath Test

Close-up on a police officer about to administer a breathalyzer test
A breathalyzer is one of the most common ways to test for intoxication. However, these tests are not always accurate. There are numerous factors that can contribute to a false reading, but residual alcohol is one of the most frequent. Alcohol can remain in your mouth, even if it has not been absorbed into your blood stream. Further, some foods and drinks contain trace amounts of alcohol. Though not enough to be felt, the alcohol that remains in your mouth may affect the results of a DUI breath test.

James Novak is an experienced DUI defense attorney in the Phoenix, AZ area. He has successfully defended those who are facing serious charges of drunk driving. Often, he can get the charges lessened or dropped entirely. Understanding the fluctuations and unreliability of breathalyzer tests, he may be able to find highly convincing evidence to clear your name and restore justice on your behalf.

What Causes Faulty Breathalyzer Results?

There are a number of things that can leave residual alcohol in your mouth. Breathalyzer tests operate on the assumption that the air sample comes from your lungs. In fact, it may come from your stomach, throat, or mouth. Alcohol in these areas has not entered the blood stream and, therefore, would not impact your ability to drive.

However, a breathalyzer may indicate that you are intoxicated in any of the following cases:

  • If you recently consumed alcohol, it will leave traces in your mouth – sometimes much more than is in the rest of your body.
  • Burping will cause alcohol to rise from your stomach into your mouth and esophagus. This could lead to a much higher reading than is actually accurate.
  • If you suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), there is a greater likelihood that a breath test will not be accurate. With this condition, the valve separating your stomach and your throat is herniated, causing acid – and alcohol – to rise up into your esophagus and mouth.
  • Some speculate that dentures can throw off a breath test, since the false teeth can trap particles of alcohol. Periodontal disease causes pockets to develop in your gum tissue, so it may have a similar effect.
  • Mouthwash is largely comprised of alcohol. On a DUI breath test, this type of alcohol will be indistinguishable from an intoxicating beverage. Some cough syrups, cold medications, and even lip balm can also result in an inaccurate reading.

Foods and Drinks that Leave Residual Alcohol

Along with mouthwash, there are also certain foods and beverages that contain some alcohol. These include:

  • Sugar-free gum that uses alcohol as a sweetener
  • Some protein bars
  • Certain energy drinks
  • Ripe fruit
  • Kombucha and other drinks made with fermented products
  • Fruit-flavored chewing tobacco

Your Legal Recourses

If you believe that you blew a false breathalyzer reading, a drunk driving conviction is not a forgone conclusion. You have a number of legal options, especially if you work with an experienced DUI attorney. First, law enforcement officers are required to observe you for 15 minutes before administering a breath test. If the officer who pulled you over did not do so, the DUI charge will likely not stand up in court.

Furthermore, an attorney like Mr. Novak can often assemble convincing evidence in your favor. For example, he may be able to find witnesses who observed you eating one of the foods described above. He could also call on the expertise of a doctor to prove that you suffer from GERD or a related condition. With compelling evidence and a well-crafted argument, you can often avoid a DUI charge and maintain your clean driving record.

Contact the Office of Jim Novak

Courts crack down on DUI charges, but the right lawyer may be able to get those charges dropped. Contact us online to schedule your case evaluation and let us get to work on your case as soon as possible.

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