Why Did I Fail a Breathalyzer When I Wasn’t Drinking?

Studies have indicated that there is a 50% margin of error between breathalyzer results and actual blood alcohol content (BAC). To put that into perspective, a breathalyzer BAC of .1%, which exceeds Pennsylvania’s legal limit of .08%, could range between .05% and .15% given that margin of error.

The consequences of a DUI conviction are severe in the short- and long-term. If the breathalyzer says you were drinking and you weren’t, you should not simply accept the outcome. There is too much at stake.

As a criminal defense attorney for more than two decades, I have helped many clients charged with a DUI challenge the breathalyzer results. If you have been charged in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or in Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, or Chester counties, or in the State of New Jersey, call The Law Offices of John Della Rocca now. I can help you, too.

Am I Required to Take a Breathalyzer?

If you drive a vehicle in Pennsylvania, you have given implied consent to undergo testing of your breath or blood if stopped by law enforcement for suspicion of driving under the influence. If you refuse, the officer can easily obtain a warrant to draw a blood sample for testing.

Furthermore, a first refusal will result in the suspension of your driver’s license for 12 months or 18 months if you have refused or been convicted of a DUI before. You likely will be required to install an interlock ignition device for a year and pay all expenses associated with the device, including monitoring costs. Once you have completed your punishment, you will pay a reinstatement fee from $500 for a first refusal up to $2,000 for the third. You also can still be convicted with a DUI, adding those penalties to the punishment for the refusal. The prosecuting attorney can use the refusal as evidence of guilt.

What Might Cause a False Positive?

There are several factors that could cause the breathalyzer to record a false positive. These can be used to challenge the accuracy of the test results.

  • Equipment calibration: Breathalyzers must be routinely tested and checked to make sure they are accurate. Test administrators must be certified and conduct the test as required, which includes obtaining at least two test results within .02% of one another. Air temperatures can affect calibration as well.
  • Medical conditions: Those with diabetes have high acetone levels which could trigger a false positive, and the symptoms of hypoglycemia, including dizziness and confusion, can be confused with symptoms of intoxication. Other medical conditions that could cause an incorrect reading include acid reflux and even heart disease. Dieting may also raise the acetone levels in your body.
  • Medications: Cold and allergy medications, cough syrups, and medications for heartburn and acid reflux can increase BAC. Others, such as gum and toothache pain relievers, some vitamins, and asthma medications, can affect results without raising BAC.
  • Mouth contaminates: Some things you use or inhale in your mouth may cause a false positive, especially since many contaminants contain alcohol. These include mouthwash, toothpaste, breath strips, sprays, and mints.
  • Food and beverages other than alcohol: Many foods contain alcohol in low enough content to not cause intoxication but high enough to throw off a breathalyzer reading. These include fermented drinks, like kombucha, ripe fruits, energy drinks, protein bars, nonalcoholic wine and beer, hot sauce, some nuts, and cinnamon. Bread containing yeast can skew readings. So can food prepared with alcohol, like penne alla vodka, coq a vin, and bratwurst cooked in beer.
  • Other products: Perfumes and colognes, aftershave, hair sprays, bleach, air fresheners, insect repellant, hand sanitizers, and cleaning wipes contain alcohol. Compounds found in chemicals such as oil-based paint, lacquer, varnish, paint thinner, gasoline, and cement can alter breathalyzer results. Those who work with them may carry around enough fumes to cause a false positive. The breathalyzer reads more than your breath. It may pick up readings from your skin and the air as well.
  • Electronic interference: Electromagnetic and radio frequency interference can skew results, including power lines, radios, and cell phones.

Don’t Risk Your Future. Call The Law Offices of John Della Rocca Today.

Many variables may come into play in a breathalyzer test. No one wants to get a DUI, but getting a DUI when you weren’t drinking is not justice.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Philadelphia or in any of the surrounding communities in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, call The Law Offices of John Della Rocca today to discuss your case. You put your future at risk if you don’t.

Don’t wait another minute. Call now. 


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