Local Attorney: DUI Tests Flawed
Mouthwash Or Illness Can Alter Results, Keefer Maintains
By David Reynolds
Attorney Robert Keefer cheers on the small, hand-held blood-alcohol testing device as the numbers climb well past .08, Virginias legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol.
"Youre feeling it now," Keefer says during the experiment he does to show that a swish of mouthwash can throw off the results of roadside breath tests.
The digital register soars, finally stopping at .374, a blood-alcohol content that could cause a coma, according to an industry Web site.
"Uh-oh," Keefer says. "Youre going to jail."
But his subject consumed no alcohol before blowing into the handheld machine, only a swish of Scope mouthwash, which contains alcohol, seconds before blowing into the Alco-Sensor III.
The Scope trick, Keefer says, fools the machine by leaving alcohol in the mouth, even though no alcohol has been absorbed in the lungs, which is what breath test machines use to measure blood-alcohol content.
"Its measuring alcohol in an incredibly small air sample which is supposed to come from deep in your lungs," Keefer said. "A small mistake at the beginning becomes a big mistake at the end."
The problem, the attorney says, is that common health problems like acid reflux disorder also can cause alcohol to enter the mouths of people who have been drinking, even if they havent had enough to reach the legal limit.
Keefer says diabetes also may throw off the test a claim one expert disputes.
Although an accused drunken driver will receive additional tests, Keefer says, a high Alco-Sensor III reading is probable cause for an arrest.
"By that point," he says, "youre already in jail, locked up."