Acid Reflux Can Affect Breathalyzer & BAC Results

Acid Reflux Can Affect Breathalyzer & BAC Results

Understanding Breathalyzer Technology

When it comes to determining blood alcohol content (BAC) on the spot, breathalyzer devices have become the gold standard for law enforcement. These nifty gadgets work on the principle of infrared spectroscopy, where the chemical compounds in a breath sample absorb light at different wavelengths, allowing the device to estimate the amount of alcohol present.

However, they aren't foolproof. Inaccuracies can arise due to various factors, including device calibration, user error, and even certain medical conditions.

Despite their widespread use, breathalyzers can sometimes tell a different story from the truth. The devices assume that the alcohol in one's breath comes directly from the lungs, where it correlates with the blood's alcohol level. However, this isn't always the case.

Factors such as temperature, breathing patterns, and even recent consumption of alcohol or food can impact the results. Moreover, the presence of alcohol from sources other than the bloodstream, known as "mouth alcohol," can significantly skew the readings, leading to falsely elevated BAC levels. This is where medical conditions like acid reflux come into play, potentially causing a perfectly sober individual to fail a breathalyzer test.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) & Its Symptoms

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, more commonly referred to as GERD or acid reflux, is a condition that affects millions worldwide. It occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach, leading to symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and sometimes even a sour taste in the mouth.

These symptoms can be more than just uncomfortable—they can interfere with daily life and, surprisingly, with the accuracy of breathalyzer tests. The regurgitation of stomach contents can bring up not only acid but also any alcohol consumed, which can linger in the mouth and throw off a breathalyzer reading.

Understanding the symptoms of GERD is crucial, not only for health reasons but also for legal ones. Common symptoms include a burning sensation in the chest, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, and the sensation of a lump in the throat. For individuals who experience these symptoms, especially those who consume alcohol, the risk of a false positive on a breathalyzer test is a real concern.

The device may detect alcohol that has made its way from the stomach to the mouth rather than alcohol that's been metabolized and entered the bloodstream, leading to a BAC reading that doesn't accurately reflect one's level of impairment.

The Role of Mouth Alcohol in Breathalyzer Readings

Mouth alcohol is a term that refers to any alcohol present in the oral cavity, and it's a notorious culprit for breathalyzer false positives. When someone with acid reflux experiences a flare-up, stomach contents, including any undigested alcohol, can be propelled into the mouth.

This residual alcohol can significantly elevate breathalyzer results, as the device may register it as being representative of blood alcohol concentration. This phenomenon is particularly concerning because it can occur even when the individual has not consumed alcohol immediately before the test, leading to a wrongful DUI accusation.

Legal Implications & Defense Strategies

For those with GERD, facing a DUI charge based on a false positive breathalyzer result can be a daunting experience. However, it's important to understand that you have rights and there are defense strategies available. If you suffer from acid reflux, it's essential to communicate this to your attorney, as it could have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.

A knowledgeable lawyer can argue that the breathalyzer results were compromised due to your medical condition and, therefore, do not accurately reflect your level of impairment. This defense can be supported by medical records, expert testimony, and even scientific studies that demonstrate the effect of GERD on breathalyzer accuracy.

Tips for Individuals with Acid Reflux

If you're living with acid reflux, it's important to be proactive in minimizing the risk of inaccurate breathalyzer results. One key tip is to avoid consuming alcohol, especially in the hours leading up to driving, as this can exacerbate GERD symptoms and increase the chances of mouth alcohol being present.

If you do choose to drink, ensure that you wait an ample amount of time before getting behind the wheel, and be aware that symptoms like heartburn or regurgitation may signal the presence of mouth alcohol. Additionally, consider carrying documentation of your GERD diagnosis, such as a doctor's note, which can be presented to law enforcement if necessary.

Another useful strategy is to inform the officer conducting the breathalyzer test of your condition. While this may not prevent a false positive, it can provide context for the results and may lead to the consideration of alternative testing methods.

Arrested for a DUI? Contact the attorneys at Balbo & Gregg, Attorneys at Law, PC online or at (866) 580-3089 to schedule an initial consultation today.