James Parker
February 16, 2022

What Is Acetone?

Acetone is a substance that is naturally produced by the body when there is a low level of sugar in the blood. There are several conditions that can cause a high level of acetone in the body, including diabetes, eating a low-carb diet, and fasting. High acetone levels can be picked up by a breathalyzer used to analyze the amount of alcohol in a person’s body and can register as alcohol. A person who is pulled over and given a breathalyzer test may be falsely accused of being intoxicated due to high levels of acetone on the breath.

Ketoacidosis is a dangerous health condition that can result from a high level of ketones in the blood. Ketosis is a condition indicative of weight loss occurring in the body. Both of these conditions result in a higher level of acetone in the body than normal. This acetone turns into isopropanol, naturally-occurring alcohol that is not related to ethanol (the type of alcohol found in wine, beer, and liquor).

Key Takeaways

  • Acetone is naturally produced by the body during periods of low blood sugar. 
  • In many states, breathalyzer tests are unable to differentiate between isopropanol and ethanol. This can result in a DUI charge when a person has not been drinking or has been drinking but does not have a blood alcohol level high enough to be charged with a DUI. 
  • If you’ve been convicted of a DUI related to high acetone levels, it’s important to work with an attorney who has experience fighting charges like yours.

Acetone and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charges

Many people experience physical conditions that can cause the formation of acetone, making it more likely that they’d have tested positive for having on their breath during a routine traffic stop. In many states, breathalyzer tests are unable to differentiate between acetone and ethanol (the chemical that indicates blood alcohol levels). This means that people who are experiencing ketosis or ketoacidosis due to health conditions or following a special diet may be more likely to be accused of driving under the influence than someone to whom these conditions do not apply. 

This can become especially problematic if someone who has high acetone levels consumes a safe amount of alcohol and is pulled over. If an officer smells alcohol and indicates as such in their police report, it can be difficult for the person accused of driving under the influence to fight the charge. People who have high acetone levels due to health or dietary reasons and are accused of driving under the influence need to work with a lawyer who is experienced in fighting this type of case. 

Sophisticated breathalyzer tests are able to differentiate between acetone and ethanol, but many states use breathalyzer tests that cannot discern between the two substances. Many people feel that states choosing to use breathalyzers that cannot differentiate between acetone and ethanol is a violation of a person’s rights, as the results from these breathalyzers can lead to a false conviction of driving under the influence.

Bottom Line

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence even though you were not intoxicated, it’s possible that you had high levels of acetone in your body. This is especially likely if your health or dietary conditions put you in a state of ketosis or ketoacidosis. It’s key to work with a lawyer who has worked with others in this situation in the past.

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