Why Breathalyzers May Not Accurately Measure Alcohol Levels
It’s a Saturday night and you’re headed back to your apartment after a night of throwing back a few beers with friends. Halfway home, you glance in the rear view mirror and notice the police car behind you has turned on his red-blue lights. You’re not speeding; the dashboard shows a steady 65. So you pull over and hand over your license. The officer asks if you’ve been drinking and requests to test your blood alcohol level (BAC).
Before you blow into a breathalyzer, it’s important to be aware of situations that can cause blood alcohol reading errors. There are many external factors which affect breathalyzer BAC level accuracy.
Lifestyle & Diet
Edible substances containing DS alcohol that are similar in chemical structure to alcohol can produce artificially high readings. Substances include everyday items such as Listerine, Altoids or spearmint chewing gum.
Lifestyle habits can also lead to breathalyzer errors. Lungs of smokers and tobacco chewers contain 30% more acetaldehyde levels than individuals who don’t smoke. On average, breathalyzer readings are higher for dieters who are following high-protein diets and diabetics whose bodies convert more acetone into isopropyl alcohol.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition may also raise mouth alcohol levels. GERD causes acid reflux which releases stomach liquids into the throat and mouth. If a person took their last drink one hour before being pulled over, but burped 5 minutes before taking the breathalyzer test, mouth alcohol levels will be proportionately higher than blood levels. A simple belch or burp can be a contributing factor to a high BAC, leading to a DWI or DUI charge.
Over the Counter Medicines
Many over the counter medicines contain a high percentage of alcohol. Medicine cabinet culprits that influence BAC levels include Nyquil, Vicks Formula 44D, Halls lozenges, Ambesol and toothache drops.
Elevated Body Temperatures
Recovering from the flu or just came from a backyard hot tub house party? If your core body temperature is higher than 98.6 degrees F, your BAC reading will be artificially higher. Temperature increases cause vapor pressure in your lungs to expel larger volumes of evaporated alcohol. Research shows that each degree above a normal body temperature of 98.6F can raise BAC readings up to 8 percent.
Something as innocent as painting your back deck or working for a dry cleaner may create chemical interferences in your BAC levels. Additionally, if you work in the construction or manufacturing industries, solvents used in gasoline, varnishes and glues can result in false BAC levels.
Have you been charged with a DWI but have yet to be been convicted? It’s critical to remember the smallest details of the night the officer asked you to submit to a breathalyzer test. Your legal defense could rest on one of the situations above.