Acid Reflux Breathalyzer Defense
Anyone who suffers from Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease ( 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 molecules. If a person has alcohol in their stomach and reflux pushes some of the alcohol or vapors into the throat or mouth, the vapor or alcohol coming from the stomach will substantially and falsely increase the alcohol concentration reported by the “breath” test machine, which is supposed to measure lung contents, not stomach contents.
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Breath Tests & Acid Reflux
Washington law requires officers to observe the person for 15 minutes prior to the breath test to ensure no foreign substance is placed in the mouth. Studies have shown that any alcohol in the mouth will evaporate within this 15-minute period. Clearly, regurgitation of alcohol into the mouth would make the test inaccurate. The officer is not likely to be able to observe this regurgitation even while watching the person closely. The reflux regurgitation of alcohol is a silent, continuous flow of ethanol molecules from the stomach into the mouth – there need not be an obvious burp, belch or vomiting.
Studies show people who “reflux” stomach alcohol on breath tests, even tests administered hours after the consumption of alcohol, give artificially high breath test results compared to their actual blood alcohol level, as shown by blood analysis done at the same time. Zantac, a medication designed to control reflux, can further exacerbate problems with the test by prolonging the time that alcohol remains in a person’s system. However, do not expect the police and prosecutor to be compassionate to the special situation of those who suffer from acid reflux; in fact, most will blindly and obstinately argue that reflux cannot affect the accuracy of a breath test.
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A person accused of driving under the influence who suspects reflux interference with their breath test should obtain medical records proving they have previously been diagnosed with the disease. In addition, they need 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. Our Washington DUI attorneys can provide you with the tough and well-versed legal representation you need and deserve. Let us put our more than 30 combined years of experience to work for you.
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