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Can Acid Reflux Cause a False Positive on a Breathalyzer?


Getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is a scary situation, especially if you know that you were completely sober when driving. As it turns out, something common as acid reflux can cause a false positive on a breathalyzer test. We’ll explore the reason behind this and discuss what you can do if you find yourself in this situation.

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition where stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. This occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) - a ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach - doesn't close properly, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus.

The symptoms of acid reflux commonly include heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may occur after eating certain foods or lying down.

How Can Acid Reflex Result in a False Positive on a Breathalyzer Test?

When you have acid reflux, the contents of your stomach, including stomach acid, can rise back up into your esophagus and mouth. This can cause a burning sensation in the chest, a sour taste in the mouth, and even vomiting. But it can also bring up some alcohol that was not fully digested. This partially digested alcohol is called mouth alcohol, and it can skew the results of a breathalyzer test.

A breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in your breath by detecting the chemical compound ethanol. Ethanol is present in alcoholic beverages and is eliminated from the body through breath, urine, and sweat. However, ethanol is not the only compound that can be picked up by a breathalyzer. Other compounds, such as mouth alcohol, can also be detected by the device.

What Happens If I’m Arrested for DUI Because of Acid Reflux?

If you have acid reflux disease, you can inform the arresting officer about your condition. They might be able to provide you with an alternative test, such as a blood or urine test, that is more accurate for people with acid reflux. Additionally, you can request that the officer wait at least 20 minutes after your last episode of acid reflux before administering the test, as this can help eliminate any mouth alcohol that may be present.

However, if you have already taken a breathalyzer test and believe it was affected by your acid reflux, you have the option to challenge the results in court. There have been cases where individuals have successfully argued that their breathalyzer results were inaccurate due to acid reflux and have had their charges dismissed. It’s important to work with a DUI defense lawyer who is experienced in arguing these types of cases and can help you build a strong defense.

It’s also worth noting that acid reflux is not the only condition that can cause false positive breathalyzer results. Other factors that can impact the accuracy of these tests include recent use of mouthwash or breath sprays, dental work, and even the type of diet that you follow. If you are facing DUI charges and believe that your breathalyzer results were affected by any of these factors, don’t hesitate to speak with a lawyer and explore your legal options.

If you were arrested for DUI in Colorado, get legal help from Orr Law Firm by contacting us today.