One day, a client was driving on Atlanta’s highways, when some officers pulled him over. He was facing a DUI check. Our client was calm and relaxed because he hadn’t had a drink that day and had never been accused of a DUI.
He had always valued the lives of those around him enough to abstain from drinking and driving and was the first to remind his friends and family of the consequences of a DUI on their record. It can be very damaging to their status in the United States. He was regularly chosen as a designated driver for his friends and family and was happy to put them on an Uber or Lyft if it helped them avoid a DUI.
Our client told us that the officer approached his window, explained the breathalyzer procedure, and asked him to comply. He made him blow into the machine, and he waited a few moments, to confirm that the result was 0. Meanwhile, our client remained calm. But then, the traffic officer showed him the results, and to his surprise, he had tested positive for exceeding the limit of alcohol per liter of exhaled air.
He was truly in shock, because he knew it was impossible. He waited for 20 minutes to perform the test again and the result was negative. But why was it positive the first time?
In this new blog, the Díaz & Gaeta Law team is going to explain possible causes for false breathalyzer readings (also known as false positives), two little known reasons that can cause positive DUI cases, and the importance of receiving legal representation from a DUI lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia.
Detained for DUI without drinking alcohol
Driving while intoxicated and having a DUI on your record is a serious crime that can have serious consequences for your legal status in the United States, as you may lose your rights to immigration benefits.
When you are stopped by an officer on Atlanta’s highways to take a breathalyzer test, you should know that the objective is to gather evidence against you. Refusing to take the test is an option, but it can have seemingly significant legal consequences. You may be arrested but an experienced DUI lawyer has a better chance of clearing the situation for you if there are no tests to incriminate you. The breathalyzer collects air coming from the lungs, known as alveolar air, and any alcohol found in the air will be detected by the device.
In the course of this process, the air leaves the lungs, passes through the mouth, collects the residual alcohol that is in the mouth at that time and all together, reaches the breathalyzer.
The residual alcohol that is located in the mouth is called “alcohol in the mouth” and is NOT always related to previous alcohol consumption. Thus producing a false positive in breathalyzer tests that can lead to being accused of DUI in Atlanta.
If you find yourself accused of a DUI without having ingested alcohol, and the test is positive, it is still possible for a specialist DUI lawyer in Atlanta to help you. They will study your case to appeal that decision or to reduce or eliminate the fine or sentence imposed on you altogether.
What exactly is “alcohol in the mouth”?
Breathalyzers, as we mentioned before, measure the small particles of alcohol that flee from the blood to the lungs and appear every time you breathe.
When a person uses products or medications that have alcohol, much of the particles remain in the mouth (saliva, teeth, tongue) or in the throat. Substances containing alcohol in the mouth will give a false reading due to the proximity of this substance to the breathalyzer. Therefore, as in our client’s story, a false positive can occur when carrying out the breathalyzer test, if there is “alcohol in the mouth,” from anything. In theory, you can have something like cough medicine leave you with enough “alcohol in the mouth,” to test positive on a breathalyzer test.
Duration of “alcohol in the mouth”
Alcohol in the mouth is more potent than blood alcohol, but less durable, since it generally disappears after 20 minutes. For this reason, traffic officers are supposed to monitor the person 20 minutes before testing to make sure they do not eat or drink anything that could alter the results, so that they do not burp or regurgitate.
Arrested for DUI for medication
The combination of drugs and driving is a lousy mix that can cause damage and serious consequences for your life and the safety of other people who drive around you. Georgia state law punishes a DWI (Driving while intoxicated) as a misdemeanor, but it can be considered a more serious crime depending on each person’s history.
But what happens when those drugs are drugs that you need for an illness? Sometimes some police officers may confuse other factors with drug use. Tests are considered reliable enough that a positive result can be grounds to accuse you of a DWI very easily. There are people who are falsely accused of a DUI, after taking legal medications for an illness. There are also people who are rightly accused after taking legal or illegal drugs that make it unsafe to drive.
It is important to understand how the tests work for drugs. They involve a salivary exam that can detect any trace of consumption. The problem with this test and how it can lead to a false positive is that it can detect traces from drugs consumed up to several days before driving because there are some medications that can leave traces in your body, even if you are no longer under their effects.
It is very important that when you drive, you know the composition of the medicines you have taken well. There are many drugs that can be bought at pharmacies with common prescriptions, which can lead to driver poisoning. If the indications say that you should abstain from driving, it is best to follow those instructions. Drugs that are legal to take are not necessarily legal to consume and drive with. If you take any drugs that may linger in your system, even if you are not under their influence, it’s important to know that as well in case you are falsely accused of a DWI. Some examples are antidepressants, valium, antihistamines, decongestants, sleeping pills, or hydrocodone.
Detained for DUI for marijuana
Another important cause of a DUI accusation is driving under the influence of marijuana. Being accused of a DUI for marijuana use has become more common in recent years. There are people who, due to diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, or terminal diseases, have their doctors prescribe medical marijuana for them. The state of Georgia has limited medicinal use of this drug, but you can own and use low-THC or CBD oils.
You must understand that having a legal right to use marijuana does not make it lawful to drive while you are under its effects. If an officer gathers evidence of poisoning via marijuana and its products, you may not be able to plead a medical exception as a defense for driving under the influence. If you take marijuana, even legally, you can still be considered in violation of the law that prohibits being drugged and driving.
It is very important that you know that if you or a family member is charged and arrested for a DUI or a DWI, you will need the help of a specialized attorney. At Díaz & Gaeta law firm, we will evaluate the charges and the evidence to evaluate the case and protect your rights.
False positives for DUI in Atlanta
Eating some foods, using inhaler sprays for treatments such as asthma, using mouthwash, or consuming certain medications can lead to a false positive on BAC and be charged with a DUI.
A false positive occurs when there are problems or interferences that affect the interpretation of the test results. They can be caused by ingesting certain foods, beverages, or medications that secrete or have alcohol or by drugs or medications that linger in the body after their effects have passed.
At Díaz & Gaeta law firm we want to give all our clients peace of mind when faced with a DUI accusation since we have expert lawyers that know just how to handle these cases. Overall we recommend exercising your right to refuse to take any tests if you feel there is even a slight possibility that you could test positive, even if all you did was take cough medicine. You may be detained, but the chances of getting your record wiped clean are greater for an experienced attorney if you seek representation right away and don’t allow the authorities to gather any evidence against you. This is especially important if you are not a US citizen. Having a DUI on your record, even if it was due to a false positive, can seriously impact your eligibility for immigration benefits.
If you have been involved in an incident with a breathalyzer test or tested positive, feel free to contact the Diaz & Gaeta law firm and get a free consultation. We fight to reduce or eliminate your charges and for your rights.