When someone has been arrested for drunk driving, the evidence may seem incontrovertible at first. After all, the breathalyzer test has been around for decades. It is an easy and reliable way to measure a person’s blood-alcohol concentration. Following arrest, the suspect is typically asked to also take a blood test to confirm the results.
But upon careful scrutiny, seemingly ironclad evidence doesn’t always hold up. One recent case demonstrates that even if you haven’t been drinking, certain diets and medical conditions can fool a breathalyzer device into thinking you are over the legal limit.
According to an article in Men’s Health Magazine, at least one prolific exerciser was falsely charged with drunk driving because he was on the Keto diet. In ketosis, fat in your body breaks down in your liver to be used as fuel. During the process, acetone is released through your breath as isopropyl alcohol.
The alcohol in spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey, etc.) is ethanol, but some breath-testing devices may not be able to tell the difference between ethanol and isopropyl alcohol. The devices carried by police officers are typically more accurate than personal-use breathalyzers, and manufacturers claim that the more sophisticated devices can differentiate between types of alcohol. However, there seems to be a lack of peer-reviewed data to back up those claims.
It should be noted that this particular example wouldn’t apply broadly to many of the people facing DUI charges. But more common conditions like diabetes and GERD/acid reflux have been known to sometimes create false positives on breathalyzer tests. The larger point is that drunk driving charges are based on a finite set of evidence gathered during a finite period of time. The context surrounding that evidence will not be duly considered unless you (with the help of an attorney) make the effort to contest the charges and challenge the evidence.
If you’re facing DUI charges, please don’t assume you are out of options. Instead, discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area.