Criminal Defense Lawyer Norfolk, VA and throughout Hampton Roads
Criminal Defense Lawyer Norfolk, VA and throughout Hampton Roads

What Foods Can Trigger a False Positive on a Breathalyzer Test?

Breakfast sandwich sits on a car dashboard with keys

Outside factors, including food, can influence breath tests.

Certain foods and substances, like yeast-containing foods or mouthwash, can influence breathalyzer test results and cause a false positive report. In Norfolk and throughout Virginia, if an officer is reasonably suspicious, even a low BAC score can be enough to justify an arrest and drunk driving charges.

If a driver suspects an inaccurate breathalyzer test result due to food, they should not argue about it with the police. Remember: Anything you say can be used against you. In this situation, a driver should use their rights: Ask for a lawyer and remain silent. If the breathalyzer test was wrong, an experienced Norfolk DUI defense attorney will know what it takes to prove it.

These foods may influence breathalyzer results

While false positives due to the consumption of non-alcoholic foods and beverages don't happen every day, they still happen. Here are some examples of foods that may influence breathalyzer test results:

  • Fermented foods. Some fermented foods, such as bread and certain types of vinegar, contain trace amounts of alcohol. Consuming these foods shortly before a breathalyzer test could lead to a detectable level of alcohol on the breath.
  • Some sauces. Sauces that use alcohol in their preparation, such as wine sauces, may leave residual alcohol in the mouth.
  • Sugar-free gum and candy. Some sugar-free gum and candies contain sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol, which may be fermented by bacteria in the mouth, producing trace amounts of ethanol.
  • Cough syrup. Certain cough syrups and medications may contain alcohol as an ingredient. Consuming these products close to a breathalyzer test could lead to inaccurate results.
  • Mouthwash. Some mouthwashes contain alcohol as an antimicrobial agent. Using an alcohol-based mouthwash shortly before a breathalyzer test may result in a temporary spike in breath alcohol content.
  • Protein-rich diets. Very high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets can induce a metabolic state called ketosis, which may lead to the production of acetone. While breathalyzers are designed to specifically measure ethanol, they may show a small elevation due to the presence of acetone.
  • Energy drinks. Some energy drinks contain alcohol-like compounds, such as taurine and others.

Although the amounts of alcohol produced by these foods and substances are typically minimal, in certain situations, consuming them can cause a breathalyzer to produce false positive results.

Proving food caused inaccurate breathalyzer results

Proving that food caused a false breathalyzer reading can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Here are some steps and considerations that a DUI defense lawyer might take to establish a connection between food consumption and false positive breathalyzer results:

  • Expert testimony. A toxicologist, forensic scientist, or another type of expert witness may be called on to provide testimony. They can explain how certain foods can lead to the production of trace amounts of alcohol and why it may result in a false positive on a breathalyzer test.
  • Witness testimony. People who observed the driver's behavior, appearance, and sobriety can be valuable in establishing that the driver did not show signs of intoxication.
  • Medical records. Medical documents may show that the driver processes certain foods or medications in a way that can interfere with breathalyzer readings.
  • Restaurant and grocery receipts. Evidence of the specific foods or substances the driver consumed before the breathalyzer test can make a case stronger.
  • Cross-examine law enforcement. Challenging the breathalyzer test is crucial in most Virginia DWI cases. A DUI defense attorney may examine the calibration of equipment, adherence to testing procedures, and potential factors influencing an inaccurate reading.

Fight unfair breathalyzer results

Facing a DUI charge in Norfolk? Contact Welch & Wright, PLLC for a free case evaluation. We know Virginia DUI law inside out. If a breathalyzer test is wrong, we can fight to prove it. Our Norfolk DUI defense lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to review your potential legal options.

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