Will Smoking Affect a Breathalyzer Test?

April 10, 2020

Smoking can lead to a higher reading on a breathalyzer test.

Will Smoking Affect a Breathalyzer Test?

In California, there are two ways to be charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol. First, you may be charged with a “per se” DUI, which can be charged when you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (or less, if you are under the age of 21, currently on DUI probation, or are driving a commercial motor vehicle at the time that you are stopped). Second, you can be charged with a DUI if your ability to drive is impacted by being under the influence of alcohol, regardless of what your BAC reading was.

Many people believe that the results of a chemical breath test — often referred to as a breathalyzer — are indisputable. Used in per se DUI cases, the readings from a breathalyzer may seem like solid science. However, there are many things that can affect the results of a breath test. For example, a person who vomited shortly before taking the test may have a higher reading. Similarly, many medical conditions, such as diabetes, impact how a person’s body metabolizes alcohol — making the results inaccurate. A skilled DUI defense lawyer in Rancho Cucamonga, CA can often challenge a breath test based on these and other issues.

If you smoke, it may also result in a higher BAC reading. This can skew the results of your breathalyzer test — and result in an unfair arrest.

Chemical breath tests do not simply measure the presence of alcohol in a person’s breath. Instead, they detect the presence of any compound that contains the methyl group in a person’s breath. For this reason, these tests may produce false positives due to another methyl ground being present in the body. This is why people with diabetes may end up with a much higher BAC reading than they would get from a blood draw.

When a person smokes, they tend to have higher concentrations of acetaldehyde in their lungs. Acetaldehyde is a methyl compound that is produced in the liver when alcohol is metabolized. Acetaldehyde also shows up in the lungs when a person drinks alcohol, which can then be measured by a chemical breath test. The problem is that breath tests cannot distinguish between acetaldehyde that is produced by alcohol and that is related to smoking. Scientific studies have demonstrated that smokers tend to have much higher BAC readings from breathalyzers as a result.

If you are a smoker and have been charged with a DUI and had a breathalyzer test that showed a BAC above the legal limit, your DUI defense lawyer in Rancho Cucamonga, CA may be able to defend you on the basis that your BAC was likely higher due to smoking. This is just one way that a skilled attorney can defend you against DUI charges. Other defenses may include arguing that the police lacked probable cause to stop your vehicle or even that the test was improperly administered.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping Californians who have been charged with a range of DUI offenses. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or info@orangecountyduifirm.com to schedule a free initial consultation and learn about how we can help you.

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