3 ways breath alcohol tests can show false positives

When police pull someone over under the suspicion of driving while impaired (DWI), they may be subjected to a few tests. More often than not, if it’s clear to an officer that a driver has been drinking or using a substance, they may ask the driver to do a breathalyzer test.

A Breathalyzer test will conduct whether someone is above the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08%. While these tests are often correct, there may be ways a Breathalyzer test results in a false positive. Here’s what you should know:  

1. Mouthwash, mints and breath fresheners

Just before a date or party, you may have taken a swig of mouthwash, had a few mints and topped it all off with some breath freshener – each of which could have contained alcohol. A high concentration of alcohol in your mouth because of a breath mint or mouthwash could set off a false positive during a breath test. Similarly, gum or toothpaste may contain traces of alcohol.

2. Cough drops, cold medicine and over-the-counter drugs

While it’s unlikely anyone is getting drunk off of cold medicine and over-the-counter drugs, there may be chemical compounds that cause breath alcohol tests to misjudge whether there is alcohol in someone’s system. Using a cough drop before a Breathalyzer test may have the same results as using mouthwash or mints. 

3. Perfume, nail polish remover and cologne 

Many perfumes and cologne contain alcohol. A breath test could return a false positive because there were trace amounts of alcohol in the air from perfumes or cologne. A pungent odor of nail polish could even set off a breath test if you just came from the salon or work in the industry.

If you believe there was a miscalculation with a breathalyzer test, causing a DWI charge, then you may need to reach out for legal help.