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Why Did I Fail the Breathalyzer
If I Wasn’t Drinking?

Watkins Law Firm LLC Feb. 17, 2022

drunk driving test by copYou’re driving down the road when a police officer pulls you over. You haven’t been drinking and didn’t violate any traffic laws, so you have nothing to be worried about. But what happens if you somehow fail the breathalyzer test, even if you weren’t drinking?

It can happen, and there are several possible reasons for a breathalyzer false-positive test result. No matter what the reason turns out to be, you shouldn’t be penalized for a crime you didn’t commit. Your rights should be protected no matter what your situation is and especially if you had a false-positive result.

I have worked in DUI law in Colorado for over 20 years, and my extensive experience helps me defend my clients’ rights and protect their driving privileges. My firm, Watkins Law Firm LLC, serves clients in Boulder, Colorado, as well as Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, and Broomfield.

Legal Requirements to
Take a Breathalyzer Test

“Am I required to take a breathalyzer test?” is a common question Colorado drivers want to know the answer to. The answer is almost always yes. Under Colorado law, anyone who uses the roads across the state gives express consent to submit to a breath, blood, saliva, and/or urine test.

For a police officer to administer a breathalyzer test, he or she must suspect that you are guilty of impaired driving to pull you over.

Possible Reasons for a False Positive

“I got a DUI but wasn’t drinking,” is a problem some drivers may face. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight these DUI charges. There are several different reasons why a breathalyzer test might give a false-positive result.

Calibration of Equipment

Faulty or incorrectly-calibrated equipment could show a false-positive result. If the baseline alcohol levels are not set correctly, then the test results could be inaccurate. It’s important to know that, even if your blood alcohol level was above .08%, you may not have been intoxicated.

Medical Conditions

If you have hypoglycemia, then your breathalyzer test results may come back as a false positive. People with hypoglycemia may have higher levels of acetone in their breath, which can be high enough to cause a false reading.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, is a symptom of many different medical conditions, including diabetes, cardiac disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and even anxiety.


Certain medications may lead to a false-positive breathalyzer test result. Large doses of aspirin, as well as sulfa medications and pseudoephedrine, can cause hypoglycemia. One study even found that some asthma inhalers can increase the likelihood of a false positive.

Mouth Contaminates

It is possible for the mouth to become contaminated in a way that leads to a false-positive breathalyzer test result. For example, if someone vomits after drinking alcohol, residual vomit in the mouth could lead to a false-positive result later. Similarly, even a burp after consuming alcohol could contaminate the mouth and affect test results.

Food or Drinks

Some food and drinks can also cause breathalyzer false-positive results. For example, low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet and keto, can increase acetone levels. Diet soda can also cause increased acetone levels.

Hand Sanitizer

A 2013 study by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine found that when someone uses a common alcohol-based hand sanitizer before administering the test, that hand sanitizer could lead to a false-positive result via a standard hospital breathalyzer.

How a Knowledgeable
Attorney Can Help You

A false-positive result on a breathalyzer test could land you with DUI charges. If you received a positive result when you were not inebriated, an attorney can help protect your rights. As your attorney, I personally will work closely with you and advocate for your best outcome. Watkins Law Firm LLC serves clients in Boulder, Colorado, as well as Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, and Broomfield. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation.