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Can a Medical Condition Affect My BAC Reading?

Yes. Many medical conditions can negatively impact your BAC reading if you are stopped for a DUI.

How Medical Conditions Can Skew BAC Readings

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) tests are a cornerstone of driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement. However, these tests, particularly breathalyzers used in field settings, are not foolproof.

While primarily designed to detect alcohol consumption, certain medical conditions can influence BAC readings, leading to misleading results. Some illnesses that can impact BAC readings include:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD causes stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. This backflow can carry minuscule amounts of alcohol naturally produced by gut bacteria into the mouth. Breathalyzers can misinterpret this residual alcohol, leading to falsely elevated BAC readings.
  • Diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause a buildup of ketones in the bloodstream. Ketones are a byproduct of the body breaking down fat for energy. Some breathalyzers can mistake ketones for alcohol, resulting in inaccurate BAC results.
  • Respiratory conditions. Certain respiratory illnesses, like asthma or bronchitis, can alter breathing patterns. Breathalyzers require a specific volume and duration of breath for an accurate reading. In these cases, shallow or rapid breaths may dilute the sample, leading to falsely low BAC readings.
  • Liver disease. The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol. In cases of severe liver disease, this process can be compromised. While not directly affecting BAC readings, individuals with liver issues may show signs of intoxication at lower blood alcohol levels compared to healthy individuals.

It is important to note that these are just some examples, and the impact of medical conditions on BAC readings can vary depending on the severity of the illness and the specific device used for testing.

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

You can refuse to take a breathalyzer in California, but refusal can lead to license suspension and penalty enhancements. Rather than refusing to adhere to a test, you should inform the officer of your condition. You can (and should) also tell your attorney so they can challenge the results.

It is also important to note that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Services Division manual asks officer to allow 20 minutes of observation to occur between tests. To be specific, officers should administer a test, print those results, observe a person for 20 minutes and readminister the test. This observation period and time between tests can allow for less false positives as GERD symptoms may have dwindled.

Reliable DUI Defense Counsel

At Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC, our team of experienced DUI defense attorneys offers comprehensive legal counsel to protect your rights and navigate the legal process. We recognize that certain medical conditions can mimic signs of intoxication and potentially lead to inaccurate field sobriety tests or breathalyzer results. Our approach includes a thorough investigation of your case, considering any underlying medical conditions that may have contributed to the situation.

If you have a diagnosed medical condition, such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), we will work with you to gather relevant medical documentation and explore if it could have played a role in the arrest. This information can be presented to the court to potentially challenge the accuracy of the blood alcohol content (BAC) level.

We also recognize that every case is unique. We can carefully analyze the details of your situation and explore all potential defense strategies.

Call (949) 251-0330 to get started on your case today.