Washington State Acid Reflux Defense
Anyone who suffers from acid reflux (or GERD) and takes a breath test after consuming alcohol may get a result that is much higher than the true alcohol level in the blood and/or lungs.
Acid reflux causes anything in a person’s stomach to rise from the stomach and into the mouth, including vapors containing alcohol. If a person had alcohol in their stomach and reflux pushes some of the alcohol or vapors into the throat or mouth, the vapor or alcohol will substantially falsely increase the breath test reported by the machine.
While Washington law requires officers to observe a person taking a breath test for fifteen minutes, the regurgitation of alcohol into the mouth would likely not be perceptible to the officer. Studies of the performance of people who have acid reflux on breath tests, even tests administered hours after the consumption of alcohol, show that reflux causes an artificially high breath test result compared to the actual blood alcohol level. Zantac, a medication designed to control reflux, can further exacerbate problems with the test by prolonging the time that alcohol is detectible in a person’s system. However, the police and prosecutor may not be compassionate to the special situation of those who suffer from acid reflux, so a person accused of driving under the influence who suspects acid reflux interference should obtain the services of a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney who can effectively present the acid reflux defense in negotiation with the prosecution or at trial to a jury or judge.
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