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Los Angeles DUI Attorney: Smoking Raises Breathalyzer Results

DUI Defense Attorney claims smokers arrested for DUI may have false high results

2009 | Nov 10

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 27 -- Los Angeles DUI attorney Lawrence Taylor, author of the legal textbook Drunk Driving Defense, claims that smokers arrested for DUI may have false high results from breathalyzer tests.

Breath machines don’t actually measure alcohol, Taylor says. They are actually designed to detect any compound containing the methyl group in its molecular structure and to assume that it is alcohol. They cannot distinguish the difference between alcohol and, among many other compounds, acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde is produced in the liver in small amounts as a by-product in the metabolism of alcohol. Unfortunately, the DUI lawyer says, alcohol moving from the blood into the lungs has been found to metabolize there as well. And scientists have found that acetaldehyde concentrations in the lungs of smokers are greater than for non-smokers – far greater. Translated: smokers arrested for DUI are more likely to have falsely high readings on a breathalyzer. “Origin of Breath Acetaldehyde During Ethanol Oxidation: Effect of Long-Term Cigarette Smoking”, 100 Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine 908.

The Los Angeles DUI lawyer points to another scientific study that found cigarette smoking can influence absorption by the body of alcohol -- and thus attempts to estimate earlier blood alcohol levels when driving based upon levels when tested. Johnson et al., “Cigarette Smoking and Rate of Gastric Emptying: Effect on Alcohol Absorption”, 302 British Medical Journal 20.

The researchers reported testing blood samples of a group of smokers both after smoking and after prolonged abstinence. The result was that "areas under the venous blood alcohol concentration-time curves between zero and 30 minutes and 60 minutes and the peak blood alcohol concentrations were significantly less during the smoking period compared with the non-smoking period."

The scientists concluded that the effect of smoking on alcohol absorption has "considerable social and medicolegal relevance", and that the ingestion of nicotine should be taken into account when dealing with legal issues involving alcohol metabolism. In other words, Taylor says, attempts to estimate blood-alcohol levels of a DUI defendant when driving are highly unreliable.

For more information, visit the law firm’s website at http://losangeles.duicentral.com/ . Inquiries may be directed to the firm’s main Los Angeles office: 562.989.4774.


With a national reputation and the highest professional ratings, The Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor has specialized in DUI defense exclusively for 29 years. The firm’s California DUI defense attorneys serve clients statewide from offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside and San Francisco.

Daniel Stanton

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor have an average experience of 18 years; the firm has specialized only in DUI defense since 1979. More information about Mr. Taylor's firm can be found at their homepage, www.duicentral.com.