Acid Reflux Disease (GERD) and Its Effect on DUI

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by acid reflux syndrome. This medical issue may affect a DUI with a breathalyzer. It is important to know how this affects charges and cases. Some gases may affect the results when taking a breathalyzer test, and some traces of alcohol may remain present longer when the alcohol content in the blood has already dissipated enough to fall below the national legal limit of .08 percent.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease affects many Americans and causes gases and vapor from the stomach to right back through the esophagus and expel through the mouth from the throat. These gasses and vapors may be from food that were eaten, liquids consumed or from the breakdown of molecules the body ingests. In many instances, this disease is diagnosed as heartburn or acid reflux due to the similar symptoms and issues involved.

When this disease is affecting someone that has consumed alcohol in some form, some raw alcohol may be expelled through the mouth. Gasses and vapors flow in a reverse manner causing what should be processed by further digestive areas to rise up again through the esophagus and come out the mouth. This reverse flow is often uncomfortable for the person affected and may cause discomfort in others when the vapors and gasses have a particularly strong odor. These may include the concentrated odors of alcohol which may raise the blood alcohol content levels up to and beyond the national legal limit of .08 percent when a breathalyzer test is administered. That does not necessarily mean the person is legally drunk. This condition raises the numbers due to the concentrated vapors which the machine reads as an active and present concentration of alcohol in the personís system.

Effects and Consequences of GERD

Because vapors are expelled in concentrated amounts, most breathalyzer tests for these individuals are subject to repeated failures. The air pushed into the devices is not just from the lungs as it should be. This is the breath the machines are supposed to test, but some persons use mouth breath and those with GERD may use other breath. With a mouth soaked alcohol content pushed into the devices, tests usually fail providing prosecution evidence for conviction.

When a sufferer of GERD is put under stress, anxiety or other negative emotions, the vaporous gasses that expel out of his or her mouth often increases. This is one result of an arrest with heightened emotions affecting these individuals on top of the disease. Because of how this illness affects these persons, a BAC reading with a breathalyzer machine is useless when police officers, court staff and anyone involved in the case is notified of this issue. Whether the reading takes the mouth, throat or esophagus alcohol residual content, the test is inaccurate for what is actually in the personís blood stream affecting how he or she would drive. According to some experts dealing with GERD, the BAC levels recorded in a breath test are most often between twenty and 80 percent too high with some instances of 100 percent too high. This means that those suffering from this condition are often under the legal limit in near almost all cases despite what readings record.

Machines and Readings

Some prosecutors mention the use of breathalyzer tests with devices that have slope detectors. These are to detect and flag BAC records when alcohol levels lower quickly while the sample of breath is being measured for the test. This may indicate the use of mouth or stomach alcohol and gasses interfering with test results. Unfortunately, even though this function allows and acknowledges GERD type issues, the reliability and workings are not usually workable for these issues. Those devices used in the field for portable testing do not have these features for use at all. Being arrested for a portable or preliminary test would be a false arrest based on inaccurate and completely wrong readings in many instances.

Preparation for a Case Involving GERD

If GERD is believed to be affecting the person that has been issued charges for DUI violations, it is vital a medical health professional is contacted to ensure an examination takes place to determine this. Even though a prosecuting lawyer may be unsure of how this defense would work, the condition should be shared with all involved in the case. GERD has been used as a valid defense in cases previously, and a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer should be obtained to ensure this defense is put to the best use.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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