Can common products trigger a false positive on a breath test?

The police pull you over on your way home. You get it. You did not come to a complete stop at the last stop sign. You looked around and you didn't see any other cars, so you just rolled through.

You know that the lack of other traffic made an accident impossible. You also know that, technically speaking, you still needed to stop.

What throws you off, though, is that the officer approaches you very carefully and seems intent on watching your eyes while talking to you. It goes on longer than you thought it would. Isn't this just a simple ticket? Shouldn't you already be on your way?

Then the officer asks you to step out of the car and take a breath test, because he or she believes you are drunk. You're not, so you comply, eager to prove that you're sober and get on with your life.

...Until you get a positive result on the breath test. As the officer arrests you for drunk driving, you wonder how this possibly could have happened.

Everyday items

One potential reason is that some everyday items can trigger breath tests. The most common example, perhaps, is mouthwash. Did you use some before getting behind the wheel? Many types of mouthwash contain alcohol. It's one of the active cleaning ingredients. Is that the alcohol that the breath test detected?

Reports have shown that items like lip balm, breath spray, cold medicine and cough syrup can also trigger the tests.

In fact, some of these could play into the officer's initial suspicion. Did you act sort of disoriented and out of it because you were fighting off a cold? The pressure in your head made it hard to concentrate. You felt exhausted after battling the illness all day. The medicine itself made you feel just a little bit off. That's why the officer thought you seemed drunk, maybe it's even why you rolled through the stop sign, and it could be why you failed the breath test.

One drink

Some experts have also warned that alcohol from even one drink could trigger a higher result than it should due to the fact that some of it gets absorbed as soon as you drink it by your mouth's lining tissue. It's not all in your stomach or your blood stream.

Perhaps you did have one beer but you never felt intoxicated. Could that positive result come from the alcohol trapped in your mouth, hitting the test in a higher concentration?

Your rights

A DUI conviction can mean fines, fees, jail time and a license suspension. It's serious. Make sure you know all of the legal options you have when facing allegations.

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