These Medical Conditions Can Impact Your Breath Test
Did you know that only about 50% of DUI cases result in a guilty verdict? Breathalyzers aren’t always foolproof evidence, so it can be tricky for the prosecution to prove a person was under the influence. If you have one of these health conditions, it can result in an inaccurate breathalyzer reading.
This breathing disorder affects breathalyzers in multiple ways. One of the most common issues is that it makes it hard to breathe fully into the breathalyzer, so law enforcement officers might struggle to take a reading. Furthermore, a person who is having an asthma attack can act a little confused, which might make cops suspect they are drunk.
If you have used an asthma inhaler in the time leading up to your breathalyzer, your BAC results are even less accurate. Asthma inhalers use alcohol to preserve and distribute the medication that helps with breathing. When you take a puff from your inhaler, roughly a third of the mist is actually alcohol.
This alcohol isn’t even absorbed into your bloodstream like alcohol you drink. Instead, it coats the lining of the lungs. When you breathe into a breathalyzer, this alcohol mist comes back out and results in a false reading. Even people who haven’t had a drop to drink can seem over the legal limit if they use their inhaler before a test.
If you are sick with the common cold or another type of respiratory illness, there might be a reason to doubt your breathalyzer results. Many false readings are triggered by certain medications. This happens because some medicines contain alcohol, and when they stick to the lining of your mouth and throat, the concentrated fumes can impair a breathalyzer’s ability to function correctly.
For example, sucking on a cough drop right before a test can quickly cause a false reading. Other common medications that can impair a breathalyzer include some types of Nyquil and Vicks products. If you were using an oral gel to help with a cold sore during your illness, you can also get a false result because of the anesthetic used in the medication.
One of the most common conditions used in a medical DUI defense is diabetes. Whether a person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, their body struggles to process sugar correctly. When sugar levels become too low, a person experiences many symptoms that can be confused with drunkenness. Diabetic hypoglycemia causes tremors, slurring, clumsiness, and mental confusion.
If you have too much glucose in your blood, you are even more likely to be hit with false DUI charges. When a person has severely high blood sugar, their body enters diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a serious health crisis, and one of the key symptoms is producing too much acetone. When this happens, your breath may smell fruity and alcoholic.
Excess acetone in the bloodstream causes all sorts of problems. Though it’s most common in patients with high blood sugar, some people with diabetes can have chronically high acetone levels even if they currently have low blood sugar. This is a problem because breathalyzers cannot tell the difference between acetone and ethyl alcohol. Therefore, they register high acetone levels as high BAC levels. In fact, this is so common that some doctors use a breathalyzer test as a way of diagnosing patients with diabetes in the first place.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is essentially a chronic form of heartburn. People with GERD struggle to digest food regularly, and contents from the stomach quickly back up into the esophagus. Most people just associate GERD with unpleasant chest pain and foul-smelling breath, but it can also cause legal problems.
Alcohol is one of the most frequent triggers of a GERD episode. Even just a few sips of a beverage can cause severe acid reflux. This becomes a problem if someone is suspected of a DUI. When you take a breathalyzer test with a lot of alcohol backing up into your throat, the readings are drastically off. A person might have merely tried a cocktail with dinner, yet they can end up blowing a result well over the DUI limit.
GERD can also contribute to false DUI charges because it affects a person’s breath. People with GERD tend to have chronic foul breath, so they often rely on mouthwashes and breath sprays. These GERD treatments typically contain alcohol, so having even a small amount lingering in your mouth can throw off your breathalyzer tests.
Kidney and Liver Diseases
Both the kidneys and the livers are an essential part of filtering toxic materials out of the bloodstream. Unfortunately, it is possible for these essential organs to quit working. There are a variety of medical conditions that can cause liver or kidney disease to develop. Most people with kidney or liver disease will not be able to drink alcohol because it further damages their vulnerable organs.
However, even without consuming alcohol, you might find yourself accidentally failing a breathalyzer test. This happens as a result of ammonia buildup. When your kidneys or liver cannot metabolize properly, you end up with excess ammonia in your body. Since breathalyzers aren’t the most sophisticated equipment, the ammonia buildup can easily confuse the breathalyzer. This can make it difficult for law enforcement to get a proper reading.
What to Do If You Have One of These Conditions
Being diagnosed with one of these conditions isn’t an automatic “get out of jail free card.” It does give you a very valid defense in a DUI case, but your Morristown criminal defense lawyer will still need to do some work. First of all, they might need to get some testimony from a medical expert. Since a lot of judges and juries may not know much about health care matters, your lawyer could ask a medical professional to explain how your diagnosis affected the breathalyzer test.
Your DUI lawyer will also need to show that there isn’t a relevant case against you outside of the breathalyzer test. For example, if video evidence shows you taking ten shots of alcohol, hopping in your car, and immediately crashing it into a pole, a potentially faulty breathalyzer test might not be enough to get your case dismissed. You have a better chance of avoiding a guilty verdict if you were not impaired or there was no evidence of you consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Your lawyer may be able to use your illness as a reason to throw out the breathalyzer results, and without this evidence, the case against you might collapse.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, the law office of Gregg Wisotsky is happy to help. As a Morristown criminal defense lawyer, Gregg Wisotsky can discuss your situation and help you see if there are any valid ways to defend against a DUI charge. Our team can also help out with a variety of other types of criminal cases in Morris County. To learn more about our services, give us a call at 973-898-0161, or fill out our contact form.