What Can Cause a False Positive Breathalyzer Test?

A Factors that May Affect a DUI Breath Test

Getting pulled over for a DUI can turn your world upside-down in an instant. What could make things worse, however, is taking a breath test and getting a false positive. This scenario may seem like a rare occurrence but in reality, falsely positive breath test results are all too common.

A police officer will administer a breathalyzer test if they have reasonable suspicion to believe you are driving under the influence. Maybe you were weaving in and out of your lane, ran a red light, or driving without your headlights on. Factors like these may create suspicion that a bigger crime ― like a DUI ― is taking place.

Once an officer pulls you over, sees your license and registration, and asks you questions (which you should NOT answer, as you have the right to remain silent), they may administer a breathalyzer test. You must know that your test results will determine whether or not they have probable cause to arrest you. As such, you will surely hope that the test result shows you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below 0.08.

Unfortunately, several factors that are both within and out of your control may interfere with an accurate breath test result. As such, you should keep the following aspects in mind as you navigate your DUI stop:

Medications: Alcohol-based medications that can affect breathalyzer tests include the following.

  • Asthma medications such as albuterol, salmeterol, budesonide
  • Over-the-counter medications such as Nyquil and Robitussin
  • Oral gels containing Anbesol

Medical conditions: Although they’re not in your control, medical conditions can easily throw off your breath test results, such as the ones below.

  • Diabetes
  • Acid reflux
  • Hypoglycemia
  • GERD
  • Asthma
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver diseases

Food: The diets below could do some harm if you get pulled over for DUI. This is because if you have low amounts of carbs in your body, it will produce ketones, which are similar to isopropyl alcohol. As a result, a breathalyzer can “confuse” this for ethyl alcohol (the kind you drink).

  • Low-carb diets
  • High-protein diets
  • Fasting

Breath fresheners: Products such as mints, chewing gum, mouthwashes, and breath sprays can affect your breathalyzer results because they contain varying amounts of alcohol. As such, a breath test can pick up on these trace amounts of alcohol and mistake it for intoxication.

Not waiting 15 minutes: Since breathalyzers are so sensitive, minor things such as burping and sneezing can interfere with an accurate result. That’s why police officers must observe you for 15 minutes to ensure that nothing interferes with the accuracy of your breath test. If they looked away at any point in this observation period, their credibility could be questioned in court.

Turning Problems into Solutions

Breathalyzer technology is not always reliable, and neither are police officers, as they are subject to human error no matter how much training they have in DUI breath tests. Luckily, our Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney can turn those flaws into opportunities to get your DUI charges reduced or dropped altogether. We can identify factors that may have produced a false positive breath test result and formulate a case strategy that compels a judge and/or jury into realizing these problems.

To us, your freedom matters most and we’re here to protect it. Get started on your case by contacting us at (707) 418-5352 today!