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Can mouthwash lead to a positive breath test?

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2023 | DUI/DWI

When a police officer gives someone a breath test, it is designed to measure the concentration of alcohol in their blood. This is reflected in their breath, and these tests are some of the most common ways that police officers check for impairment. The tests can inform the officer if the driver is at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.

That being said, there are cases in which those who have not been drinking will fail these breath tests. This could cause an officer to believe that they are intoxicated when they are actually sober. Could using mouthwash before you leave the house cause you to be arrested on drunk driving charges?

It has to happen relatively quickly

First of all, it depends if the type of mouthwash that you use actually contains alcohol. Many modern varieties do not and will not trigger a test. But it is still very common for mouthwash to have some level of alcohol, perhaps around the same amount that you would find in wine.

Clearly, ingesting mouthwash could increase someone’s BAC (blood alcohol content) and cause them to fail the test. But simply having the alcohol in their mouth could also cause them to fail, which is when things get problematic. This only happens if they take that test relatively quickly after using it, though, as the alcohol will evaporate. It usually will only stay in the mouth in detectable amounts for about 10 to 15 minutes after use. The law in Missouri requires an uninterrupted 15-minute observation period from the time an officer checks the mouth for any foreign items or substances (like chewing tobacco) before giving the test.

Are you facing charges?

If you’re facing drunk driving charges when you don’t think that you were impaired at all, it can be very frustrating and concerning. Be sure you know about all the defense options at your disposal.