How Does Acid Reflux Affect a Breathalyzer Test?


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Being pulled over by the police is stressful. It is even more so if you are suspected of driving under the influence. However, if you have the medical condition GERD or gastroesophogal reflux disease, better known simply as acid reflux or heartburn, you might end up receiving a false reading on a breathalyzer test.
When you are required to submit to a breath analysis, the breathalyzer test is performed using infrared technology. The light will lose energy in a breath sample and what is thought of as its fingerprint is compared against other samples. The device will produce a printout after the test that determines the level of alcohol on the individual’s breath.

The way the test measures the level of alcohol in the breath relates to the deep lung air. This air is believed to coincide with the amount of blood in the individual’s bloodstream. It is determined by the Blood Breath Partition Ratio, which believes that 2100 mL of breath carries the same amount of alcohol as one mL of blood. When the BAC machine analyzes a person’s blood sample, it assumes that the alcohol in the sample was derived from deep lung air. At the same time, however, this may not always be accurate because the alcohol could really have come from the stomach, mouth or throat for a variety of reasons. There is a distinct problem at times when using the BAC machine due to the fact that it utilizes a model to determine when the sample used is from the deep lung, when it might actually be from the mouth.

With that being said, people who suffer from GERD or acid reflux disease may easily end up with a false reading in the breathalyzer test. This is because the medical condition causes the contents of the stomach, whether food or liquid, to leak backwards from the stomach to the esophagus. As a result, what is known as “mouth alcohol” can be produced. This generally creates a higher alcohol concentration than that from the deep lung. In someone with acid reflux, it means that a constant leakage into the esophagus can result in mouth alcohol that is always present. Not surprisingly, this will result in a false high reading in a breath test.

If you are accused of DUI and have acid reflux disease, it may be difficult for the prosecuting attorney to prove his or her case against you. It is still important that you seek the assistance of a skilled defense attorney if you are arrested for a DUI. The lawyer will help you and will ensure that your rights are protected.


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Howard Iken is a Florida attorney that practices in family law, bankruptcy, and criminal law. He can be reached at