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What can cause a false positive or malfunction in a breath test?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Dwi

Breath tests have become a trusted method to detect alcohol levels in drivers. However, these tests are not foolproof and can sometimes give inaccurate results.

If you suspect that such a device has malfunctioned, you do not necessarily have to accept the results. Rather, you can try to understand the potential causes of breath test errors to present a plausible defense to the court.

Mouthwash or medications

Various types of mouthwash contain alcohol, which can significantly affect the breath test results. In fact, the alcohol concentration in mouthwash can be as high as 42.7%, which is as much as hard liquor. Another popular brand has 21.6% alcohol.

If you have used mouthwash before taking a breath test, there is a realistic chance that the breath test equipment test would indicate a higher level of alcohol in your breath. However, this does not mean that you are over the legal limit.

Also, prescription and over-the-counter medications can raise the body’s blood alcohol content, affecting breath test results. Certain medications contain ethanol, and cough syrups and antiseptics have the potential to interfere with breath test outputs.

Faulty calibration and human error

Breath test equipment needs appropriate calibration to provide accurate results. If an officer has not calibrated the device within the recommended timeframe, it can easily provide erroneous results. In such cases, you could ask for the calibration records of the machine to support your case.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, can result in the regurgitation of stomach contents, including alcohol, into the mouth. When this occurs, the elevated alcohol content in the mouth air can trigger false readings in breath test equipment. If you suffer from GERD and have taken a breath test equipment test, tell the police officer so that they can take a blood test to validate the results.

Drivers must be aware of the potential causes of breath test malfunctions. If you find yourself in such a situation, you can fight the case by presenting reasonable explanations to the court on why the test results were erroneous.