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DWI / DUI BREATH TESTING AND MOUTH ALCOHOL

Mouth alcohol can cause a breathalyzer machine to register a falsely high blood alcohol concentration.

The breathalyzer machine (in Dona Ana county the Intoxlizer-8000 is the breathalyzer used) assumes that the breath sample is being taken from deep lung air.

Science has developed a formula that allows one to convert deep lung air into a person's blood alcohol level. The ratio multiples every unit of blood in deep lung air by 2100. For the average person in controlled conditions, there will be 2100 units of alcohol in the blood for every unit measured by the breathalyzer in the breath.

This formula does not work with mouth alcohol.

Mouth air can contain alcohol that is present only in the mouth, but not in the person's blood. In others words, it's alcohol that is in the mouth but nowhere else and therefore is not affecting that person or compromising his or her ability to drive.

The most common source of mouth alcohol is from recent alcohol drinking or burping. It can also be caused by having something in the mouth that keeps the alcohol from dissipating quickly (like a tobacco pouch, dentures, or pockets in the mouth cause by periodontal disease). Sometimes mouthwash or other breath fresheners contain alcohol and will create mouth alcohol. A person with acid-reflux disease will also frequently have mouth alcohol.

To work around this problem, law enforcement does several things, but none of them are foolproof and some totally ineffective against common sources of mouth alcohol.

  • Law enforcement officers are required to ensure there is nothing in the subject's mouth and wait 20 minutes before asking for the sample. This is supposed to let any mouth alcohol dissipate.
  • The intoxilyzer is designed to require a large blow before registering a result. This is supposed to get that deep lung air that is needed.
  • Some intoxilyzers are supposed to detect mouth alcohol and issue an alert. The machine uses a slope detection function to attempt to find mouth alcohol. Unfortunately this function fails regularly. Experiments have been done where completely sober individuals put alcohol in their mouth and the intoxilyzer registers a high result without any mouth alcohol detection.

Las Cruces Criminal & DWI Defense Attorney

If you need a DWI / DUI lawyer for a case, you can contact McGraw & Strickland at (575) 323-1529

Las Cruces, NM

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McGraw & Strickland, LLC
165 West Lucero Ave.
Las Cruces, NM 88005

Phone: 575-523-4321
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