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Everyday Items That Can Give a False Positive on a Breathalyzer

Posted on in DUI

Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyerIf you have never been pulled over for drunk driving and received a breathalyzer test, the technology might seem infallible – it was developed by law enforcement, after all. However, as outlined in the following sections, breathalyzers (and other sobriety testing methods) are anything but foolproof. In fact, there are several everyday items – things that would never lead to actual intoxication – that may cause a false positive on a breathalyzer.

The Complex and Inaccurate Nature of Breathalyzers

Breathalyzers are not perfect devices. They must be calibrated regularly, and the officer using it may not administer the test correctly. Yet, even in perfect conditions (i.e. a well-calibrated device, proper use, etc.), a breathalyzer may be inaccurate.

In one peer-reviewed study, breathalyzers had an error margin of about 50 percent. Moreover, the study authors determined that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.10 on a breathalyzer could represent an actual BAC of anywhere from 0.05 percent (below the legal limit) to 0.15 percent. As such, a breathalyzer cannot unequivocally provide a positive unless the driver’s BAC registers high enough to overcome the error margin.

Everyday Items That Can Trigger a False Positive

How many times have you popped a piece of chewing gum in your mouth while driving? Have you ever gone to work, not feeling your best and relying on cold medicine to get you through the day? Do you use lip balm, mouthwash, breath sprays, or breath mint strips?

These items, as well as many others, have alcohol as a carrier solution. If that solution manages to find its way to the mouth, it can soak into the mucous membranes and trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test. Ridiculous as it might sound, there are innocent people that have experienced such a situation. Completely sober at the time of their arrest, and undoubtedly alarmed, they have had to fight to prove their innocence. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, it is crucial that you do the same.

Contact Our Santa Cruz DUI Defense Attorney

Rather than simply accept the consequences of a DUI, fight back! Contact John W. Thornton, Attorney at Law, and obtain skilled legal representation for your case. Dedicated and experienced, our Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyer will aggressively work toward the most favorable outcome possible in your case. In some situations, it may even be possible to have the charges dropped completely. Get the skilled representation that you deserve. Call 831-426-5800 and schedule your free initial consultation today.


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