Could my Michigan Drunk Driving BAC Results be Wrong? (Part 1)


Here in Michigan, if you’re pulled over for suspected drunk driving, the police officer will often request that you submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT) using a handheld device that cops carry in their patrol cars. Refusing to take the PBT test is not a crime, and it won’t cause you to get points on your driver’s license. However, it’s a civil infraction that will likely result in a fine. The PBT machine from the police car is very different than the DataMaster equipment at the police station or jail. Don’t confuse the two pieces of testing equipment.


Next, the cop might ask that you do some standardized field sobriety tests (SFST). Again, you are not required to agree to taking the test. If you refuse, you’re not committing a crime and you’re not committing any civil infraction. For that reason, it might be best to decline to take the field sobriety tests.


If you end up getting arrested in Michigan for drunk driving, DUI, DWI or drugged driving, the police will test your breath for traces of alcohol using a Datamaster machine. In fact, Datamaster breath tests are currently the only breath test results that are acceptable in Michigan courts. The DataMaster machine is located at the police station or the jail. While a blood test is arguably more accurate, that isn’t exactly an option available to an officer standing at the police station or in the jail. Therefore, breath testing is still the go-to method for trying to determine if a driver is drunk. (By the way, if you refuse to take the DataMaster test at the jail or police station, you will likely lose your driver’s license automatically, for at least a year!)


But what if the results aren’t as accurate as you think? What if the reading taken shows that you’ve been drinking when you haven’t? Or claims you’re drunk when all you did was enjoy a single drink with a friend? Believe it or not, it does happen! While most Michigan cops make a point of regularly calibrating their Datamaster machines to avoid error, because that is legally required, there are other things that could influence the reading. Things you’d never guess where affecting your roadside BAC reading. Amazed? You’re not alone! Let’s take a look at the list…


Medications that cause false positive BAC results:



Anbesol is a common medication used by people with cold sores, canker sores, toothache and other painful oral issues. However, what many people don’t realize is that Anbesol contains alcohol. The oral gel alone contains 10% benzocaine, 0.5% phenol, and an unbelievable 70% alcohol. So wouldn’t switching brands be a simple solution to this problem? Unfortunately not! A number of other cold sore medications also contain alcohol – some as much as 90%! So be aware, when choosing an oral pain reliever, if you plan to be behind the wheel.



Asthma suffers beware! Albuterol, (a prescription medication used in inhalers) contains methyl groups. Methyl groups, which are in essence three hydrogen atoms bonded to a carbon atom, are present in alcohol. BAC instruments such as our DataMaster, test for methyl groups in a person’s breath, indicating the presence of alcohol in the body. If you are an asthmatic who uses Albuterol, the DataMaster test will register the methyl groups in your medication and give you a false positive reading for the presence of alcohol in your system.


Cold and Flu Meds:

Winter time is rife with those “sniffle and sneeze” illnesses, though colds can strike at any time regardless of the season! So when choosing something to take the edge off your symptoms, be careful that you pay attention to the warnings on the bottle! Certain “sniffing, sneezing, coughing, aching” medications offer more than just symptom relief. Vicks Formula 44 contains 10% alcohol, and Formula 44D contains 20% alcohol, so be sure to avoid driving if using either of these meds, unless you’re willing to risk a DUI!


NyQuil is another cold and flu symptom medication that you need to be aware of. Widely used to help people sleep, and overcome the more unpleasant symptoms of colds and flus, Nyquil contains a whopping 25% alcohol! From a BAC standpoint, this one is a big deal. However, when looking for something less severe, keep in mind that certain cough drops contain alcohol. So always read the label before getting behind the wheel!


This is not a complete list of everything that can alter your breath test results. Certain medical conditions can cause an inaccurate reading. Lots of mouthwash contains alcohol that will skew the test results. Residue in your mouth can change your breath test results.


Have you been accused of drunk driving in Michigan?


We’re not trying to imply that you shouldn’t use medication if you need them. However, we do want our readers to be aware that the contents of your medications can affect your BAC. So you can take the necessary precautions, and avoid unnecessary DUI charges. Until then, join us next time to take a look at the rest of the list. You may be surprised at what you find on it!

However, if you’ve already been pulled over here in Michigan by the police and accused of drunk driving in Michigan, and you’re certain your BAC result was affected by your meds, contact us immediately at 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail). Our skilled DUI defense attorneys are standing by 24/7 to help you deal with this crisis. We’ve been handling drunk driving cases in Michigan since the last century.  



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