One of the biggest problems with drunk driving charges is that the main piece of evidence in DUI cases is often the results of the breathalyzer test. Although the prosecution relies on breathalyzers, they can can affected by many things, including issues as minor as drinking a diet soda, being on a diet, having a fever or even having gingivitis. In fact, many forms of periodontal disease can result in an artificially high BAC, which is why you should always tell your DUI attorney everything you can about your situation if you failed a breathalyzer.
Gum Disease and BAC
Periodontal diseases, including gingivitis, cause pockets inside the gums which can hold alcohol inside the mouth when it is consumed. This is also a possibility when a person wears dentures, or has a bridge or dental cap. While this alcohol may not be ingested and result in a person becoming more intoxicated, it will result in pure alcohol entering a person’s breath when he or she breathes out.
Unfortunately, breathalyzers are designed to test the blood alcohol content from the air deep in a test subject’s lungs. When the person has residual alcohol fumes in her mouth, this can result in the BAC showing up artificially high.
What’s the Problem with Gingivitis and the Breathalyzer?
Because the breathalyzer is known to have problems with certain test conditions, there are some safeguards in place. For example, a suspect must be watched for 15 minutes prior to testing to ensure they do not regurgitate or burp because this can result in breath alcohol that can raise a person’s BAC. Additionally, the suspect must provide two breath samples that are required to have results within .02% of one another in order to validate the accuracy of the device.
Unfortunately, when alcohol is trapped in the gums when someone has periodontal disease, these safeguards are rarely enough because while 15 minutes may be long enough for mouth alcohol to dissipate from a belch, it can take hours for the alcohol to get out of the gums. Similarly, the second breath sample will almost always be the same BAC as the original sample because the mouth alcohol trapped in the gums due to the periodontal disease will still be there.
To make matters worse, when someone has severe gingivitis, they may have frequently bleeding gums. If they blow blood into the breathalyzer chamber, the results will be even more artificially high because the blood will contain alcohol that was trapped in the gums beside the blood. While breathalyzers do have mouth alcohol detectors which are supposed to invalidate a breath sample coming from mouth alcohol, experts say these detectors are not entirely reliable.
Fighting These Charges
If you have gingivitis or other forms of gum disease, your best option is to take the blood test after you get arrested. If you have dentures, you may want to take them out at least 15 minutes before taking a breath test. But if you were unaware of the potential problems associated with dentures or periodontal disease and the breathalyzer, you should be sure to tell your DUI defense lawyer about your dental condition as it could help you build a defense against the charges. If your attorney believes this could serve as a defense (this will usually only be the case when your BAC is reasonably close to 0.08%), he may hire a breathalyzer expert or a periodontist to operate as an expert witness to testify to the likelihood that your BAC was artificially high due to your condition.
If you have been accused of drunk driving and believe your dental issues may have resulted in an artificially high BAC on your breath test reading, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.
Image by endlesswatts