Published on:

GERD- Acid Reflux & the DUI breath machine

Another question regarding the ubiquitous DUI breath machine, in Maryland the EC/IR; soon to be replaced by the newer and more advanced EC/IR II. Question: what about if I burped before I blew in the machine? What if I have GERD, acid reflux, or other digestive issues?

GERD and/or acid reflux are medical conditions that cause a person to suffer heart burn types of pain in their chest which often results in belching gaseous stomach contents up through the esophagus and into the mouth. These gas contents can include stomach acid which burns the chest, ie., heart burn, and can include alcohol that resides in the stomach or upper digestive tract.

Ok, so what? There can not be enough alcohol in the upper digestive track to actually influence the alcohol reading on the magic box, right? Consider this: as you know from earlier posts, the machine extrapolates blood alcohol content in the body by measuring the perceived breath alcohol content and then multiplying that number by 2100! Therefore, if the magic box perceives the slightest degree of breath alcohol, whether it be real or as a result of acid reflux, it then multiplies that number by 2100 and the box states that you are drunk. Once the box states that you are drunk, the cops say you are drunk and you have a steep uphill battle to disprove the results of the magic box. Well wait a second, how can a box state I’m drunk and what about being innocent until proven guilty in a court of law? That’s a post for another day, but the short answer is- too bad! The government has determined that if a machine states that you are drunk, then that’s good enough for them, you are presumptively drunk and the only way off the charge is for you to prove your innocence.

Getting back to the subject at hand, mouth alcohol is correctly perceived to be enough of an issue that the police are required to watch you for 20 minutes prior to providing a breath sample. Their “observation” of you is actually recorded on the magic tape that comes out of the magic box. Additionally, the Maryland toxicology regulations require that there be a 20 minute time period and that no foreign matter be placed in your mouth during this time period, not even water. Any mouth jewelry or removable dental items should also be taken out of your mouth 20 minutes prior to providing a breath sample as these items can and will trap small amounts of alcohol in your mouth which can be detected by the machine.

The point being that mouth alcohol or items that can trap alcohol in your mouth, even in small amounts, can multiply and turn into big problems- unfair problems. Acid reflux can be a serious contributor to these types of problems because if you burp shortly before blowing in the machine, you can unknowingly provide the alcohol either in the esophagus or the mouth that will shortly be delivered in to the machine and factored into the machine’s results. This is how you can drink 1 beer and end up in big trouble. This is why Maryland, and every other state’s “presumption” of guilt based on a number, typically .08, generated by the magic box is really a bad idea.

Just a word for the wise….