Alabama Drunk Driving News: Smokers More Prone to DUI Arrests due to Breathalyzer Errors

Posted by Steven Eversole | Oct 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Whether a drunk driver is from Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery or anywhere else in Alabama, he or she may be surprised to learn that BAC-measuring devices (breathalyzers) can record falsely high blood alcohol content readings that in no way represent a driver's actual state of drunkenness or sobriety. As a Birmingham DUI defense lawyer, I can say with some certainty that some people charged with driving under the influence of alcohol were in reality not legally drunk at the time. It's all due to breathalyzer error.

While body weight and the interval between your last drink and having your breath tested are factors that affect BAC measurement, other factors can greatly affect the results from a breathalyzer machine, many of which are in use across the state by Alabama state police and other municipal and local law enforcement departments. Also surprising is that smoking can result in these false readings.

Research has been conducted that indicates smokers have a greater chance of being accused of DUI due to high BAC readings from a breath test. Actually, breathalyzers don't really measure alcohol. They are made to detect any compound containing compounds in the methyl group of molecules. These testing devices assume and methyl molecule in a person's breath is from alcohol. This is very important information for Alabama motorists who smoke, because these machines cannot distinguish the difference between alcohol and acetaldehyde.

If you're wondering, acetaldehyde is a compound produced by the liver in small amounts as a by-product in the metabolism of alcohol. Scientists have determined that acetaldehyde concentrations in the lungs of smokers can be greater than that of non-smokers – often many times greater.

This is why it is quite possible that a smoker arrested for drunk driving based on a breathalyzer test is much more likely to have a falsely high BAC reading. It has also been discovered that cigarette smoking can influence the human body's absorption of alcohol.

Research on smokers found that venous blood alcohol concentration-time curves between zero and 30 minutes and 60 minutes and the peak BAC were significantly less during the smoking period compared with the non-smoking period. This scientific study concluded that the effect of smoking on alcohol absorption has “considerable social and medicolegal relevance,” and that the ingestion of nicotine should be taken into account when dealing with legal issues involving alcohol metabolism.

This is just one more reason why anyone charged with DUI should consult with a qualified drunk driving defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss his or her case. Under no circumstances should anyone assume they have no defense simply because a machine said you were driving drunk, especially in the case of a first-time DUI offense.

About the Author

Steven Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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