The Defense Never Rests

How can you get a false positive from a breath test?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Drug & Alcohol Charges

Breath tests can detect alcohol levels in individuals at traffic stops. However, people should recognize that these tests are not foolproof.

Sometimes, they can yield false positive results, indicating alcohol presence when there might not be any. Understanding how and why this can happen is important for anyone subject to such tests.

Mouthwash and breath fresheners

One common cause of false positives is the presence of alcohol in mouthwash or breath fresheners. Many of these products contain ethanol. This is the same alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

When someone uses these products shortly before taking a breath test, it can lead to a false reading. Even though the alcohol in mouthwash is not meant for consumption, it can still register on a breath test.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can also contribute to false positives in breath tests. Conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause alcohol from the stomach to travel back up the esophagus and into the mouth. This can create a misleading result on a breath test. The device may detect the alcohol in the breath without it actually coming from alcohol consumption.

Dietary factors

Believe it or not, what a person eats can also affect breath test results. Foods that contain yeast or sugar can sometimes ferment in the digestive system. This then produces trace amounts of alcohol. While these amounts are typically harmless, they can still register on a breath test and lead to a false positive reading.

Environmental contamination

In some cases, environmental factors can play a role in breath test inaccuracies. For instance, certain chemicals or fumes in the air, such as paint thinners or cleaning solvents, might read as alcohol on the breath test device. Exposure to gasoline or other substances can potentially influence breath test results.

While breath tests can be quick and non-invasive, they are not without their flaws. Being aware of these potential issues can help people facing DUI charges to seek fair compensation.