Could You Get a DUI by Simply Eating Certain Foods or Taking Common Medicines?

Dirt of the Day

Could You Get a DUI by Simply Eating Certain Foods or Taking Common Medicines? Make no mistake about it: Drinking and driving is a bad idea. Not only is it dangerous and potentially deadly, but drivers who register a blood alcohol content (BAC) of anything over .08 could be slapped with a DUI.

When someone is pulled over for suspected drunk driving, law enforcement officers will commonly administer a breath test using a handheld device called a breathalyzer to help determine if the motorist is over the legal limit of alcohol consumption.

While it’s a good tool to catch the truly intoxicated, a field breath test also has its inaccuracies. In fact, you might not have been drinking at all and still blow over the legal limit. Breath alcohol testing is very sensitive, and false positives on breathalyzer tests are caused by a number of things.

Sometimes you can have alcohol on your breath and not know it, and while the amounts aren’t enough to impair driving, blowing directly into the mouthpiece can exaggerate its effect. Here are some common items that you may not even think twice about before hitting the road:

Medications

Anything with ethyl alcohol, such as Vicks Formula 44 or Nyquil, can technically skew attempts to measure your BAC. “However, the amount of cold medicine you would have to drink to reach a .08 blood alcohol concentration would probably explode your stomach due to the volume,” according to Ignition Interlock Help. “It is the other medications in cold medicine or combining that medication with alcohol that can create a fuzzy head or slowed reflexes and a dangerous driving situation.”

One of the reasons people take cold medicine is to help them sleep better when fighting a cold or the flu. Cold and flu meds like Nyquil contain up to 25 percent alcohol. Driving under the influence of Nyquil can cause drowsy driving, so just don’t get behind the wheel unless you want to blow alcohol into a breathalyzer and run the risk of registering a blood alcohol concentration that could be used against you.

While prescription medications won’t impact BAC, you can still end up getting arrested for a DUI if you are incapacitated in any way. Just ask Tiger Woods about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Mouthwashes

Some people argue that you can fail a breathalyzer test up to 10 minutes after gargling alcohol-based mouthwash. There are videos out there that show people rinsing with mouthwash and then blowing into a standard breathalyzer that causes it to produce an incorrect blood alcohol reading, which could lead to arrest for a DUI.

However, officers will re-test you at the police station and that will determine if your BAC went up or down. Don’t bank on getting out of a DUI if your BAC continues to rise over time because it probably means you’ve been drinking.

The effects of mouthwash after 20 minutes are negligible, and the variation between two tests results only a few minutes apart are extreme. Mouthwash would only be a factor in the investigation if the person was already close to the legal limit and used mouthwash minutes before beginning the 20-minute observation period.

Your case in court wouldn’t necessarily be thrown out, unless the officer failed to follow proper procedure.

Yeasty products

This may sound kind of bizarre, but honey buns have been known to produce breathalyzer readings of .015 breath alcohol concentration without any prior consumption of alcohol. You’d have to eat a ton of honey buns to receive a false positive, however.

Even a single slice of white bread can produce similar BAC readings. Again, you’d have to eat a whole bunch of bread to produce skewed results. These sundries should not be considered at the top of the DUI danger list.

Acetone

Acetone exists in the breath of an average person. Hypoglycemia and diabetes are also significant causes of acetone in the breath, which is enough to get false readings of .06.

Hypoglycemia also can produce symptoms similar to those of intoxication, such as shakiness, dizziness, difficulty paying attention and confusion, which could make officers suspicious of your sobriety when a field sobriety test is administered.

Do breathalyzers produce accurate results?

The most accurate way to determine BAC is through a blood test, but blood tests are inconvenient and need to be done in a hospital or clinical setting, so officers in the field opt to use handheld, portable breathalyzer devices instead.

More and more people, especially underage teens with driving privileges and problem drinkers, are starting to buy breathalyzers for personal use as a way to monitor their own BAC levels after consuming alcohol. It’s a viable option as technologies have improved and prices have decreased in recent years.

There are two categories of breathalyzers: one for home and personal use with semiconductor sensors and another that’s professional grade and uses fuel cell technology. Fuel cell breathalyzers are said to provide highly accurate readings compared to traditional semiconductor sensors. False positives are way less likely to happen as result.

The bottom line is that it’s vital to keep impaired and drunk drivers off the road because it protects the public’s safety and saves lives. At the same time, it’s also important to protect innocent drivers of being wrongly accused, which can be fought by a lawyer, if you haven’t truly been drinking.

In the end, whether you buy into the food and medication arguement or not, if you’ve been drinking, don’t risk a DUI by driving. And don’t bank on getting out of a DUI in court by relying on the false breathalyzer test defense. Get an Uber, call a friend, hail a cab, do anything but get behind the wheel.

 

Guest Post by Brooke Faulkner

 

Dirty and Thirty
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