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False Breathalyzer Readings From Diabetes or Dieting

It is a little-known fact that breathalyzers do not measure alcohol: they actually measure the presence of a molecular group in chemical compounds. Ethyl alcohol (aka ethanol) contains the group, and so when the machine detects its presence (or, more accurately, infrared energy is absorbed by it), it simply assumes that the detected compound must be ethyl alcohol, otherwise it may lead to a false breathalyzer reading.

Problem: there are thousands of compounds containing this molecular group — of which well over one hundred have been found on the human breath.

Reasons for False Breathalyzer Readings

There are many reasons for false breathalyzer readings. Breathing gasoline or paint fumes, for example, or merely absorbing the fumes through the skin, can create false breath test results for days afterwards. And the problem is particularly acute when the suspect happens to be a diabetic, as diabetics often have high levels of acetone in their breath — a compound which contains the group in its molecular structure.

However, you do not need to be a diabetic to have high levels of acetone. Scientific research has established that acetone can exist in perfectly normal individuals at levels sufficient to cause false high breath-alcohol test readings. See “Excretion of Low-Molecular Weight Volatile Substances in Human Breath: Focus on Endogenous Ethanol”, 9 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 246 (1985).

Fasting or radical dieting, such as with the “Atkins diet”, can also cause significantly elevated acetone. Studies have concluded that fasting, for example, can increase acetone in the body sufficient to obtain breathalyzer readings of .06%. This is cumulative — that is, the .06% will be added by the machine to any levels actually caused by alcohol or other compounds. Thus, a true breath alcohol of .03%, for example, would be reported by the machine as .09%. “The Likelihood of Acetone Interference in Breath Alcohol Measurement”, 3 Alcohol, Drugs and Driving 1 (1987). And low-carbohydrate diets have long been associated with high levels of acetone production.

Of course, for many years law enforcement denied that any such problem existed, just as they denied that “mouth alcohol” and radio frequency interference caused false test results — until manufacturers started adding acetone detectors, mouth alcohol detectors and RFI detectors to their machines (none of which, unfortunately, have proven reliable.)

If you need to consult with a DUI lawyer in the greater Los Angeles area contact The Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor at 888-777-3449.  With offices in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and North San Diego counties, the firm has limited its practice to DUI defense exclusively for 33 years and is consistently top-rated in surveys of attorneys and consumers.

 

About Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor is one of the most respected DUI defense attorneys in the country. With over 43 years experience in DUI defense, he has lectured to attorneys at over 200 seminars in 41 states. An original founder and former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Mr. Taylor's book "Drunk Driving Defense" has been the best-selling textbook on the subject for 31 years and is now in its 7th edition. He is today one of only 5 DUI attorneys in California who is Board-certified as a DUI defense specialist. A former Marine and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1966) and the UCLA School of Law (1969), Lawrence Eric Taylor served as deputy public defender and deputy district attorney in Los Angeles before entering private practice. He was the trial judge's legal advisor in People vs Charles Manson, was Supreme Court counsel in the Onion Field murder case and was retained by the Attorney General of Montana as an independent Special Prosecutor to conduct a one-year grand jury probe of governmental corruption. Turning to teaching, Mr. Taylor served on the faculty of Gonzaga University School of Law, where he was voted Professor of the Year, was invited to be Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University Law School, and was finally appointed Fulbright Professor of Law at Osaka University in Japan. Mr. Taylor continues to limit the practice of his 5-attorney Southern California law firm to DUI defense exclusively. With offices in Long Beach, Irvine, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Riverside and Carlsbad, Mr. Taylor and his firm of DUI defense attorneys may be reached through their website at www.duicentral.com or by telephone at (800) 777-3349.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.duicentral.com/


2 comments

  1. This article was very helpful, thank you

  2. How reliable is Alcovisor MK X as I am a diabetic. If you do consume alcohol and sleep for 8 hours how would you know if you would be detected in the morning at a company security before entering premises where they have zero tolerance.will Alcovisor reading be allowed in a disciplinary hearing at work?

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