DUI and Acid Reflux
Sometimes, individuals charged with DUI can have test results which are the result of false positives because of issues beyond their control. For instance, many individuals suffer from health issues such as GERD, acid reflux or “heartburn.” Many people do not know that these conditions can alter or impact the reliability of a DUI breath test. The physical symptoms of certain medical conditions can trick a breath testing machine into a false positive, showing that the driver has alcohol in his or her system when, in actuality, the driver does not.
Under Nevada law, a person is presumed considered to be driving under the influence, or impaired/intoxicated, if the driver is unable to drive safely or if the individual has a blood alcohol concentration or breath alcohol concentration higher than 0.08%. A breath test cannot directly measure the percentage of alcohol in a person's blood, unlike a blood test. Instead, a breath test machine will measure the amount of alcohol thought to be present in a person's breath, which will then convert it to a roughly equivalent blood alcohol concentration.
To get a reading, a breath test machine, such as the Intoxilyzer 8000 used in Nevada, will try to obtain a sample from a person's deep lung air because this is the air that is closest to an individual's blood supply, which can give a police officer a reading. When a person exhales, the air starts in the “alveoli,” which are tiny air sacs deep in the lungs. The air then moves up to the upper airway, before coming out through the mouth and nose. The alveoli in our lungs are similar to balloons, which inflate and deflate. The alveoli are located above slender blood vessels. The blood vessels, called capillaries and the alveoli pass oxygen and carbon dioxide between one another. The capillaries and alveoli can also pass alcohol in the blood stream. For this reason, a police officer will ask a driver to blow very hard when taking a breath test. Keep in mind, this may not be possible for some drivers, like the elderly or asthmatics. In the event that a breath test cannot generate a reading, the driver may have to conduct a blood test in lieu of a breath test.
In digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter (a ring, or round muscle which closes the eating tube) will open to let food pass into the stomach. After eating, the lower esophageal sphincter will then close in order to prevent whatever was eaten from flowing back up into the esophagus. If the lower esophageal sphincter does not close all the way, or it opens often, then the stomach acid and contents can flow back into an individual's esophagus, and even all the way to an individual's mouth. In the event that a person's stomach content includes alcohol, the alcohol will end up in the driver's mouth, and the breath test will show alcohol. This phenomenon can lead to false, or greatly exaggerated, readings in a breath testing device. In addition, the event a person with acid reflux easily vomits or has regurgitated stomach contents in his or her mouth, the breath test will show a false breath alcohol concentration.
Further, when an individual consumes anything containing alcohol, the alcohol will remain in a person's mouth mucosal linings for a short time. This is referred to as mouth alcohol. Mouth alcohol can be caused by acid reflux, vomiting, burping, medicines containing alcohol, or mouthwashes containing alcohol.
It is very extremely important have an experienced Las Vegas DUI Attorney in your corner, fighting for you or your loved one. Being charged with a crime is an extremely scary, and unpleasant event. It can be very stressful if you do not know how to navigate the system and you do not have an experienced Las Vegas DUI Attorney working for you. Mr. Tomsheck is a lifetime member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is a member of the National College for DUI Defense and is a member of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association. Las Vegas DUI Attorney Josh Tomsheck has hundreds of satisfied DUI clients, as he has been able to get charges reduced, or dismissed entirely. For his case results, please click here. For your free consultation, please contact him here today!