A recent case in Canada brought a lot of attention to a subject many drivers may not be aware of: heartburn and acid reflux can, in some cases, lead to dramatically inaccurate BAC readings. Though it might sound like some legal sleight of hand, the fact is acid reflux can result in demonstrated inaccuracies in alcohol breath tests.
The case that brought the issue to light happened in Ontario when a man was pulled over and found to have a BAC of 0.15 percent, this despite experts testifying that given his weight and the amount of alcohol he consumed that evening, his BAC should only have been 0.66 percent. A trial was held and expert witnesses were called, culminating in a judge deciding to dismiss the charges against the man, convinced that unabsorbed alcohol could have been pushed back into the man’s stomach due to his severe acid reflux which led to artificially high BAC readings.
You may be wondering, is this really true? Can acid reflux really lead to inaccurate BAC readings? Absolutely. Innocent people unfortunately have been arrested and wrongly prosecuted for driving under the influence all because they suffer from problems regarding stomach acid.
The way this works is that conditions such as GERD, acid reflux and heartburn cause undigested or partially digested stomach acids to regurgitate from your stomach into your mouth and throat. While this is uncomfortable for the person suffering from the condition, the legal significance of the health condition is that it can force undigested alcohol or alcohol vapors into a person’s mouth, thus leading to drastically higher alcohol readings than are actually the case.
In cases where a patient is suffering from acid reflux, the machines malfunction because, rather than testing the alcohol content of air in a person’s deep lungs, which does produce an accurate reading, the machine incorrectly reads a much higher level of alcohol due to the presence of the stomach acid and alcohol vapors in the person’s mouth.
These sorts of problems are serious concerns for people with severe conditions, but can also impact even those with relatively minor stomach acid disorders. Even someone with rare heartburn episodes could be in trouble if they’ve consumed an especially large, greasy or spicy meal along with some alcohol. If a breath test is conducted soon after, before the alcohol has had a chance to become fully digested, then inaccurate readings are possible. Some research has shown that in cases of acid reflux sufferers, a BAC reading can end up being four times higher than the actual number.
If you’ve had a run in with the law and find yourself in need of a Missouri DWI defense lawyer capable of aggressively protecting your interests, contact our St. Louis DWI law firm today at (314) 863-0500.
Source: “Ontario man uses acid-reflux defense to beat drunk driving charge,” by www.nationalpost.com.