Over the years, countless defendants in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases have prevailed at trial thanks to inaccurate breath test results. Defense attorneys have had success showing a jury that failure by the police or a crime lab could have resulted in a false positive blood alcohol concentration (BAC) result.
There are multiple factors that could result in inaccurate breathalyzer readings. False-positive breath test results can occur due to mistakes made by the police. These errors are often related to the calibration of a breathalyzer machine. These machines are sensitive and can lead to wildly inaccurate results if not carefully maintained.
False positives can also occur thanks to the consumption of certain foods shortly before giving a breath sample. From Kombucha to sugarfree gum, these foods can have trace amounts of alcohol or cause chemical reactions that lead to a false positive. One food type that can cause a false positive you might not be aware of is honey buns.
False Positives with Honey Bun Pastries
Certain types of honey buns – a common type of cinnamon roll pastry – have been found to result in false positives. U.K. newspaper The Sun reported in 2019 that it is possible only two of these pastries could be enough to result in a false test above the legal limit. However, that is not exactly the case.
Despite the claims in The Sun, these pastries will not directly increase the body's BAC like consuming alcohol will. False positives are possible, but they will only occur when these tests are improperly administered.
Contaminated Breath Samples
Breath testing for BAC results is only accurate when the sample includes nothing but air directly from the lungs. The air from the lungs can provide a picture of the amount of alcohol the body has absorbed at the time of the test. These results are thrown off when the tests pick up alcohol within the mouth, however. Even trace amounts of alcohol in a person's mouth could give off a surprisingly high false reading. This is because breathalyzers sample a relatively small amount of air. Compared to the sample of air, a microscopic amount of a foreign substance could lead to a positive test.
Despite the potential for false positives, the use of proper protocol when it comes to operating the breathalyzer can prevent these erroneous results. To prevent the possibility of a contaminated sample, officers are required to receive training on the use of the breathalyzer. Part of this training involves waiting 20 minutes before obtaining a breath sample. By observing a person for 20 minutes prior to the test, the officer can ensure that there was no substance consumed that could leave trace amounts of alcohol in the mouth.
In the demonstration covered by The Sun, the person taking the breath test gave their sample seconds after taking a bite of the pastry. If an officer administered a breathalyzer in a similar circumstance, it would also likely give a bad result. An experienced and a DWI Board Certified Houston DWI defense attorney could use the officer's failure to appropriately administer a breath test as a defense at trial.