When a person who is suspected of drunk driving is pulled over by law enforcement, the police officer may request that the driver submit to a state-administered breathalyzer test. This test measures the amount of alcohol in an individual’s bloodstream, AKA blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Breathalyzers have been used for years to identify drunk drivers, but here’s the catch. These tests can be extremely unreliable due to a number of external factors. Our Tampa DUI attorney explains what these factors are and how the inaccuracy of breathalyzers is a common, strategic defense against a DUI charge.
Why Breathalyzer Tests Can be Faulty
The state of Florida has very strict DUI laws. You do not necessarily have to be “drunk” to receive a DUI. In Florida, being “under the influence” applies if you have a BAC of .08% or above (generally about 2 drinks) and/or show evidence of impairment. This includes slurred speech, slowed reflexes, or falling down.
Many times, drivers may be charged with driving under the influence due to breathalyzer or other sobriety tests. No matter which method law enforcement decides to use to show you are impaired; the penalties are the same and can stay on your record up to 75 years.
While sobriety tests are notoriously subjective, what can cause a faulty breathalyzer result?
Residual Mouth Alcohol
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol remains in the tissues of the mouth for roughly 15 to 20 minutes, even after just one sip! This residual mouth alcohol can be caused by more than just an alcoholic beverage.
Many items may either contain or retain alcohol, some of which include:
- Breath spray
- Cough syrup
- Chewing gum
- Asthma inhalers
- Vomit and Stomach gases
Individuals taking a breathalyzer test may not have had enough alcohol to be legally drunk but may have had residual mouth alcohol shortly before taking the test. Mouth alcohol if present could lead to faulty breathalyzer test results. Should this occur, contact our DUI defense law firm immediately.
Related > To Blow or Not to Blow
Environmental and Work Factors
A good example of how environmental factors can affect a breathalyzer test result is when a person is constantly exposed to acetone at work, a common occurrence with painters.
A breathalyzer test works by detecting ethyl alcohol, BUT the machine cannot distinguish between ethyl and acetone. Therefore, if an individual who has been exposed to acetone and has high amounts of it in his or her system, an inaccurate BAC reading can result.
In addition to residual mouth alcohol and environmental factors, several medical conditions can also artificially skew breathalyzer test results. Some of which include:
- Diabetes – This condition is known to have acetone levels up to one thousand times higher than an individual who does not have diabetes.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – GERD causes the contents of a person’s stomach to flow back up the digestive tract, including undigested alcohol.
- Diets – Studies show that diets including low carbs and high fat protein lead to high acetone levels.
- Burping – Yes, burping…Burping causes the gasses from your stomach to rise into your esophagus and mouth. The contents of these gases can contain alcohol, which could contaminate a breathalyzer test.
Related > Breathalyzer Investigations
DUI Defenses: Faulty Breathalyzer Tests
To achieve accurate results from a breathalyzer test, there must be ideal testing conditions. The person taking the test must be average-sized and in perfect health and the police officer must administer the test flawlessly – both situations being highly unlikely.
If you have been arrested for DUI and submitted to a breathalyzer test, it is critical to contact a DUI defense attorney immediately. You only have a short period of time to have an attorney file an appeal to save your driver’s license. Attorney Ben Stechschulte can help. Call our South Tampa, FL legal team – 813-280-1244 today for a FREE DUI case review.