Law Office of Michael L. Fell
900 Roosevelt Irvine, CA 92620
(949) 585-9055

Breathalyzers, though extensively used, are frequently contested for their accuracy. As any DUI defense attorney in Southern California will attest, various factors can influence these devices, from technical issues to an individual's unique physiological state. A lesser-known, yet significant factor to consider, is cigarette smoking.

Keep reading to learn more and contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 if you have been charged with a DUI and require a free legal consultation from a criminal defense attorney.

The Science Behind Breathalyzers

These devices are designed to gauge an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by identifying certain alcohol compounds in one's breath. Using this data, the machine then computes a BAC reading. In California, the BAC threshold for the majority of drivers stands at .08%.

However, multiple elements can interfere with a breathalyzer's precision. Some are linked to the individual being tested. For instance, if someone vomits before the test, it may yield an inflated BAC result. Consequently, law enforcement officers adhere to a strict protocol when conducting such tests to minimize discrepancies.

But even the most rigorous procedures can't anticipate every variable. Uncommon conditions like auto brewery syndrome cause some individuals to produce alcohol post consuming specific foods, mostly carbohydrates. Those on ketogenic diets or with diabetes might also get misleading results due to their unique body chemistry. A prominent and often overlooked factor, however, is smoking.

Smoking and Its Impact on Breathalyzers

Breathalyzers detect any compound with a methyl group in its structure. While alcohol consists of methyl, other substances, such as acetaldehyde, also contain it. Acetaldehyde forms in the liver as it metabolizes alcohol and can also be found in the lungs. Conventionally, detecting acetaldehyde implies alcohol consumption. Yet, research indicates that smokers have elevated acetaldehyde levels in their lungs, irrespective of their alcohol consumption. This elevation can lead to misleadingly high BAC readings, as the breathalyzers can't differentiate between acetaldehyde from smoking or drinking.

Smokers should thus be cautious about potential elevated BAC readings. It's worth noting that, unless under DUI probation or below 21, no one is obliged to undergo a roadside breathalyzer test prior to arrest. However, if arrested on DUI suspicion, a chemical breath or blood test becomes mandatory. Generally, blood tests provide more accurate results, especially for smokers, as they can be independently validated.

Navigating DUIs in Southern California

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge in Southern California, you don't have to navigate it alone. At Law Office of Michael L. Fell, we have a wealth of experience representing Southern California residents accused of DUI. Our dedication to our clients ensures we continually strive for optimal results in every case. To discuss your situation with a seasoned DUI defense attorney from Southern California, contact us at (949) 585-9055 for a complimentary initial consultation.