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Acid Reflux Can Lead to False BrAC Results for Fresno Drivers

Posted by Terry A. Wapner | Dec 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

If you are a Fresno driver and have been arrested on DUI charges, keep in mind that there are many conditions and circumstances that can lead an individual to produce faulty Breath Alcohol (BrAC) results.

One specific example is the medical condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Basically, GERD is acid reflux or heartburn and if you suffer from this condition, it may lead to an incorrect breath analysis reading.

GERD is a condition that causes stomach contents (food, liquid or gas) to leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus. The condition can often create breath alcohol readings which will be a higher concentration than alcohol in the deep lung tissue. A person who suffers from GERD will experience a constant leaking through the upper esophageal sphincter which would normally close and prevent this from happening. It is this gaseous alcohol that interferes with breath test results and leads to an inaccurately high reading.

More than 60 million American adults will experience GERD symptoms at least once a month and more than 15 million American adults suffer daily. With so many adults affected by this medical condition, it is troubling to think about how many people are unjustly arrested for DUI in Fresno because of GERD.

Generally, when you provide a breath sample, the BrAC machine is assuming that the alcohol in the breath sample is coming from deep lung air. However, this is not always true. In fact, alcohol may be coming from the mouth, throat, or stomach and will then, in a sense, “trick” the machine. the machine cannot tell where the alcohol comes from.

In addition to GERD, mouth alcohol will lead to an inaccurate BrAC result. The most common situations are when:

  1. An individual has vomit particles, wet with alcohol, in his mouth;
  2. An individual has food particles, wet with alcohol, in his teeth;
  3. An individual has dental work which causes food or alcohol to be trapped in the mouth;
  4. An individual consumes certain types of medicine that contain alcohol; and
  5. An individual uses a mouthwash that contains alcohol.

Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations requires an officer to allow for a 15-minute observation period before administering a breath test, but this is not always effective in avoiding inaccurate results caused by GERD.

This observation period was implemented in order to make sure that the driver doesn't eat, drink, smoke, vomit, or regurgitate for that 15-minute period before the breath test.  However, even if the officer does wait the full 15 minutes, regurgitation caused by GERD is not always obvious to the officer. The driver may experience GERD symptoms during the observation period and then produce a falsely high BAC level. GERD is a constant condition because the sphincter muscle doesn't work properly and close.

After being arrested for DUI in Fresno, you must act quickly. It is so important that you contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer in the area. I have devoted my practice to DUI Defense here in Fresno and I have helped many clients with GERD. It takes a seasoned DUI defense lawyer to properly advocate on your behalf and I want to make sure that you receive the help you need!

About the Author

Terry A. Wapner

Terry A. Wapner confines his practice to the defense of persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and related crimes.


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