Breathalyzers And The Mouth Alcohol Defense

Mouth alcohol can be caused by many things such as blood or chewing tobacco. These substances can affect a Breathalyzer test if they are trapped within a recess in a DWI suspect’s mouth. Cough drops containing menthol can produce an elevated Breathalyzer result. The use of the cold medication, Nyquil, and mouthwashes like Listerine and breath fresheners can also give a higher reading on the Breathalyzer as they contain small levels of alcohol. Certain metals in the mouth, whether new dental work or piercings, can cause “mouth alcohol,” which in turn can cause a false reading on a Breathalyzer test. If a DWI suspect has dentures, dental caps or bridges, this may also result in mouth alcohol as these fixtures can trap alcohol in tiny crevices in the mouth. Vomiting, smoking and gum chewing can do the same because these actions bring the vapors of alcohol from the stomach back up to the throat or mouth. The medical condition known as gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD) can also cause a falsely high reading on a Breathalyzer test. This condition causes constant reflux and regurgitation. If a DWI suspect has GERD, gases, including alcohol molecules, can leave the stomach and pass into the mouth. During a breath test, these alcohol gases mix with deep lung air, which also contains alcohol, and the accumulated gases are read by the Breathalyzer machine together and this may cause a false breath test result.

Pre-Test Observation Periods

Mouth alcohol is taken up by the saliva or absorbed into the body within a few minutes. Because of this police officers are generally required by policy or regulation to observe a DWI suspect carefully for 15 to 20 minutes before giving them a Breathalyzer test to ensure that they do not belch, burp, hiccup or regurgitate. Police officers also observe DWI suspects before a Breathalyzer test to make sure ensure that their mouths are free of foreign objects. Foreign objects in the mouth can inflate the Breathalyzer’s blood alcohol calculation and call into question the reliability of the test. In general if a DWI suspect swallows anything or regurgitates, or if the police officer notices the suspect chewing gum or tobacco, the officer is required to begin counting the pre-test observation period anew.

Because of the possibility that a medical condition or other pre-test condition caused a false Breathalyzer result, it is always necessary for a DWI defendant to give their DWI defense attorney all of their relevant medical and dental history. If a police officer in a DWI case fails to meet the requirement of the pre-test observation period, a DWI defense attorney can challenge the admission of the Breathalyzer test results at trial.

Slope Detectors

In order to avoid the possibility of mouth alcohol causing a false result on a Breathalyzer, the slope detector is used on some breath test machines, such as the Intoxilyzer 5000. A slope detector is designed to help ensure that air from the lungs actually composes the breath that is being tested. The “slope” refers to the rise and fall in a DWI suspect’s breath alcohol concentration. The device measures a breath sample to determine if the slope increases or decreases in a way that would indicate that the breath sample is not valid. The slope detector in the Intoxilyzer 5000 is designed to measure the rate at which alcohol concentration changes inside the machine. If the concentration changes too fast (i.e., results in too “steep” of a slope), the machine registers an alert to the police officer by giving an “invalid sample” warning notifying the officer of the presence of the residual mouth alcohol. The machine then will abort the breath test. The slope detector on the machine must be satisfied that it is giving an appropriate breath sample before the Intoxilyzer 5000 will produce a result.

Get Legal Support Today

The attorneys at the law firm of DWI GUYS are experienced in handling DWI cases and fighting the Breathalyzer results. If you need a lawyer who can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your DWI case, call the DWI GUYS, 24/7: 1-800-394-8326.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.  Corporate offices for The DWI GUYS are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-800-394-8326.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.  

Posted Under: DWI Defenses