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Can Mouthwash Affect Breathalyzer Results? - California DUI

Posted by Raoul Severo | Nov 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

In our previous articles, we have extensively covered the topic of driving under the influence (DUI). Whether you're intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, one thing is for sure: you are putting lives at risk once you go behind the wheel. That is why California has DUI related laws to punish drivers who refuse to acknowledge the dangers of their actions.

Drug tests are often the only way to truly establish that a driver is under the influence of drugs. Meanwhile, there are many methods to choose from when it comes to determining the blood alcohol content (BAC) of an individual. These are the following:

  • Blood tests. This involves a blood sample drawn from the subject's veins, which will then be tested for alcohol content by a certified clinic or hospital. 
  • Breathalyzers. These are hand-held devices used by law enforcers in the field to measure BAC and get immediate results. Breathalyzers are usually administered during a DUI checkpoint
  • Urine test. This is the least common method and is usually only done when the other type of tests are unavailable. Similar to that of a blood test, the driver will have to submit a urine sample and have it tested by a laboratory. 

Regardless of the method taken, your results should not be higher than 0.08% BAC. Otherwise, you will be presumed to be driving under the influence which is a crime not just in California but in the entire United States of America. 

However, as you might be thinking right now, these tests are far from perfect. There are many problems and flaws in each method. Blood tests are too invasive and time-consuming; urine tests often return false positives; breathalyzer results can be contaminated by external factors such as paint fumes, gas, or even diet. The fact of the matter is that there are many potential flaws when a police officer measures sobriety. 

Now, this leads to the main issue: can mouthwash affect breathalyzer results? If you want a short answer, the answer is yes -- but not always. We'll discuss this in detail later. For now, let's take a look at other contaminants that may also affect the overall accuracy of a breathalyzer test.

Factors that Can Affect Breathalyzer Results

As mentioned before, a breathalyzer is a device that depends on the breath sample of a subject to render a judgment. A driver will simply have to exhale or blow into the device, and the rest of the science and calculations will be done by the device. So, you can only imagine how slightly ridiculous it is that your freedom is in the hands of a breathalyzer. That's why people need to learn that there are environmental factors that may cause errors and false positives. These factors are:

  • Mouthwash. Some mouthwash products contain alcohol in order to kill germs and keep the mouth fresh. However, did you know that people drink mouthwash to get drunk? And the most commonly used product for this bizarre act is Listerine, as it contains 26.9% alcohol. Hence, if you rinse your mouth with Listerine and happen to get pulled over for a breathalyzer test, there's a good chance that your results will show at least 0.08% BAC. 
  • Medications. It's an uncommon fact that some asthma medications do contain alcohol, which may skew a breathalyzer reading even if the person did not ingest any alcoholic beverage. However, it is unlikely that the reading will exceed 0.08% BAC. 
  • Severe heartburn. If you coincidentally get severe heartburn while blowing to a breathalyzer, it might just be your unluckiest day ever. Acid reflux, which causes severe heartburn, might cause the food remnants in your stomach to be released back into your mouth or throat. Consequently, the results of your breathalyzer may be higher than necessary.

How to Fight a False Positive on a Breathalyzer Test

There have been many unfortunate cases of individuals who, after rinsing their mouth with mouthwash and blowing to a breathalyzer a couple of minutes later, got charged for DUI. Here in the law office of Raoul Severo, our criminal defense lawyers will fight to make sure that the error will be corrected. Contact us today and let us fight for your rights. 

Send us a message! We'll get back to you ASAP

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