Attorney at Law

Breathalyzer Errors: Obscuring Conditions

James Parker
November 15, 2021

During a road stop for suspected driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), the responding officer may ask the driver to submit to a breathalyzer test. In addition to mechanical errors that can interfere with the device’s function, many drivers are unaware that certain types of food and medical conditions can return a false-positive result on these finely-tuned machines.

Breathalyzers work by one of three methods:

  1. A semiconductor oxide sensor
  2. A fuel cell sensor
  3. An infrared spectrometer

These sensors are designed to read alcohols in the breath and will create a color change to reflect the alcohol content in the individual’s bloodstream. For this to be effective, the breath must come from deep in the lungs. If, however, there is alcohol in the mouth of the individual taking the test, the reading will be far more concentrated and give a false-positive or greatly exaggerated result. 

One way that alcohol can remain in the mouth is in food residue. Certain foods have a certain amount of alcohol in them, either created through fermentation during the cooking process or added intentionally as an ingredient. These foods can linger in the mouth and give a false-positive result on a breathalyzer test. The most common foods that may create a false reading include:

  • Bread
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Fermented fruits
  • Foods with beer, wine, or other alcohol added to a sauce or dip
  • Hot sauces
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Overripe fruit
  • Protein bars
  • Sugar-free gums

If a driver is stopped shortly after eating these foods, their results may be questionable.

Another thing that can throw off the results of a breathalyzer test is a medical condition. Conditions like diabetes, acid reflux, and heart disease can all throw results off in a way that is unfair to the driver. 

Diabetics can have high levels of the chemical acetone in their blood and their breath. Acetone can falsely trigger the sensors in a breathalyzer and symptoms of hypoglycemia can be mistaken for intoxication if the officer already believes the driver is drunk. 

Acid reflux involves some regurgitation of stomach acid and can pollute the breath with acid and food remnants. This leads people with acid reflux to consistently score higher on breathalyzer tests. 

If you have been charged with a DUI, you will need the help of an experienced DUI attorney to get you the best possible outcome. A DUI attorney can gather witness information, review the arrest report for inconsistencies, challenge a breathalyzer result, and present any medical conditions or legal drugs which could have falsely created the impression that you were intoxicated. 

The best place to find a DUI attorney is Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms allows us to match you with an expert attorney in your area. Our partners have the resources, legal expertise, and experience to handle any case with diligence and care. 

In addition to a distinguished case record, our partners also excel in client care. DUI charges can be stressful, but our partners make sure you are kept in the loop on all developments and will keep you informed about the best course of action for your case. 

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no-obligation consultation and begin your journey to justice.

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