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Factors that Affect the Blood Alcohol Level and Potential Errors

  • September 1, 2017

    Being arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) can be a harrowing experience. If you are pulled over by a police officer while behind the wheel in Los Angeles, California, and you appear to be intoxicated, the officer will very likely ask you to take a breath or blood test. Sometimes, a blood test for a DUI may not be accurate. There are a variety of factors that, together, can affect the rate of alcohol absorption and how quickly it is distributed through the bloodstream, as well as how quickly it exits the body. There are also other inaccuracies that can occur that have nothing to do with the individual who is being tested. It is important for anyone who is ordered to take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test to know about these discrepancies so that they have a better chance if they are arrested for DUI.

    How is Your Blood Alcohol Concentration Affected?

    One of the biggest reasons why there may be inaccuracies in your blood alcohol concentration is that you have consumed food while you drank alcohol. Food will change the level of alcohol that is absorbed by the body and into the bloodstream. The alcohol absorption is considerably slower when a person eats. In general, the greatest point of intoxication, or blood alcohol concentration peak, occurs anywhere from one to six hours. When a person has been drinking but has not had much to eat or has not eaten while drinking alcohol, it takes a shorter time for their blood alcohol concentration peak to occur, usually within an hour or two after drinking. It is believed that carbohydrates, fats and proteins in food may have an effect on how quickly alcohol is absorbed into the body, but there is no definitive evidence of that. However, the bigger the meal consumed and the sooner it is eaten in relation to the alcohol consumption, the slower the alcohol will be absorbed by the body.

    Additionally, the strength of an alcoholic beverage also determines how quickly it is absorbed by the body. Drinks containing 10 to 30 percent alcohol concentration are absorbed the fastest, while those containing less than 10 percent alcohol take longer to be absorbed.

    In addition to the food consumed and the alcohol itself, there is another factor that can cause a person’s blood alcohol concentration to be inaccurate. A person’s body type, fat content and weight can be a factor as to how alcohol is distributed into their bloodstream. Generally, people with lower body fat percentages will have a lower blood alcohol concentration. Individuals who have a higher fat content will also have a greater blood alcohol concentration. Also, the less a person weighs, the more alcohol is absorbed into their bloodstream.

    A person’s liver is responsible for ridding the body of alcohol. Women are also able to eliminate alcohol from their systems 10 percent faster than men. In addition, if someone is drinking alcohol at a rate that is faster than the elimination of the alcohol content from their body, their BAC will be greater.

    Why Else Would There Be Inaccuracies in Your BAC?

    Other factors can come into play that determine that a person’s blood alcohol concentration may be inaccurate. Here are the most common reasons:

    Operator Error: The person administering a DUI breath test may make certain mistakes that can lead to inaccuracies in BAC, such as not ensuring that the mouth is empty before taking the test; failing to observe the individual for 15 minutes prior to starting the test; not recording the start time for the 15 minutes; not getting at least two blows with consistent readings or recording the time each blow was made; and improperly attaching the mouthpiece to the device.
    Laboratory Errors: Sometimes, there are lab errors, such as an improperly trained breath testing device operator; the device not being properly calibrated; or poor record-keeping.
    Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can cause a person’s BAC to have a false reading, such as breathing problems like asthma; gastrointestinal conditions like acid reflux; hypoglycemia; or a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet.
    Residual Alcohol in the Mouth: Occasionally, the person has what is known as “residual mouth alcohol,” which occurs when some alcohol remains in the mouth’s linings. Other substances, such as mouthwash and cough syrups containing alcohol can show false BAC results.

    If you believe you have received an inaccurate BAC reading and are being charged with a DUI, it’s important to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney. It is your best chance of proving your BAC was lower than the results showed.

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