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Frequently Asked Questions About Mouthwash And DUIs

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If you were arrested for a DUI, yet haven't been drinking, you may find yourself wondering how a breathalyzer test could possibly show that you had alcohol on your breath. If you have recently rinsed your mouth with an alcohol-based mouthwash, you may falsely test positive on a breathalyzer test. This may leave you with many questions. Here are a some of the questions you may have about mouthwash and DUIs.

How Much of an Effect Does Mouthwash Have on a Breathalyzer Test?

Alcohol-based mouthwashes can give a false-positive result on a breathalyzer test. This means that the test will show you have alcohol in your system, even if you haven't had any alcoholic beverages. This may leave you wondering if the reading would really be high enough to warrant an arrest for a DUI. The amount of alcohol in your mouth after gargling mouthwash can be high enough for an arrest for approximately 10 minutes after using the mouthwash. You can blow above the legal limit in most states simply by having used mouthwash in the 10 minutes leading up to blowing into a breathalyzer. However, it is also important to note that an officer can arrest you for drunk driving even if you are below the legal limit. If they feel you are driving recklessly or unsafely due to alcohol in your system, you can be charged with driving under the influence. Mouthwash continues to show on a breathalyzer test for approximately 20 minutes after having been used. As such, if you have been driving unsafely and a breathalyzer shows any alcohol in your system, you can be arrested.

What Can Be Done if a Breathalyzer Test Showed Alcohol and You Haven't Been Drinking?

If you are arrested for a DUI and know that you have not been drinking, there are a few things that you may wish to do. Some states allow you to request an independent chemical test following a DUI arrest. This chemical test may be performed by the officers in the jail, or you may be taken to a testing facility, based on the laws in your state. A chemical test, such as a blood or urine test, will definitively show whether you have consumed alcohol or not. Based on these results, the charges against you may be dropped.

If you live in a state who does not allow you to request a blood or urine test after being arrested for a DUI, you may wish to hire a DUI attorney. A DUI attorney can work with you to show that you were not drinking and get the charges against you dismissed. The laws for taking breathalyzer tests vary from state-to-state, and as such, the way an attorney can work to prove this defense varies. For example, in California, an officer must wait 15 minutes from the time they pulled you over until they can administer a breathalyzer, to ensure any mouthwash, or other items that cause false-positives have worn off or aren't consumed. If an officer doesn't follow this rule, an argument can easily be made that you used mouthwash and the proper waiting period wasn't given. In other states, two breathalyzer tests may be given to confirm results. If the first test is higher than the second, this is typically a result of mouthwash, or similar items that cause false-positives. Your blood alcohol level will typically rise for hours after consuming alcohol, so it is more probable your results will rise between the tests if alcohol was actually consumed. An attorney can work to show this.

Are There Other Items That Can Give False-Positive Results?

There are other items that can cause a breathalyzer test to give false-positive results. The use of any breath freshening products that contain alcohol, such as breath spray, may give a false positive. Having GERD or acid reflux can contribute to a false-positive reading, as these conditions cause mouth alcohol. Denture adhesives also contain alcohol, resulting in false-positives. And some cough medications and cough drops contain alcohol, affecting your breathalyzer readings.

If you have been arrested for a DUI and you know you have not been drinking, mouthwash may be the cause of a high breathalyzer reading. Getting answers to the questions you have will help you to better understand how this can happen and what steps you should take to get your case dismissed. Talk to a lawyer like those at Chichester Law Office for more information.