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Are breathalyzers completely accurate?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Law enforcement officers frequently use breathalyzer devices to determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. If this test shows your BAC levels exceed legal limits, you could get into trouble. However, breathalyzer tests are not the end-all and be-all for determining drivers’ intoxication. They might show inaccurate readings even if you have not had alcoholic beverages.

Here are some of the factors that can trigger inaccurate breathalyzer test results.

Non-liquor alcohol

If you consumed food or used products containing menthol before doing a breathalyzer test, you might have a questionable reading. Menthol is a type of alcohol in many foods and everyday products, such as chewing gum, mouthwash, breath sprays, and cigarettes. Other common ingredients that might produce the same effects are sugar alcohols used in sugar-free foodstuff.


Certain foods might mess up breathalyzer readings, especially if you had them right before the test. These include fruits like durian and certain types of bread. Additionally, some breathalyzer devices might read heightened ketone levels, common in people following low-carb diets or those with diabetes, as increased BAC.


Some medications contain alcohol or similar substances that will likely throw off breathalyzers. Asthma inhalers, for example, sometimes use alcohol propellants that can affect a person’s breath alcohol readings. Moreover, some over-the-counter drugs have alcohol among their ingredients.

Breathalyzers are generally reliable, but they are not perfect. If you believe your breathalyzer test yielded a false-positive reading, an advocate with experience with DUI cases can help you build a strong defense and protect your rights.