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Hand sanitizers and DWI breath tests do not mix

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2021 | DWI

In the past couple of years, you have probably purchased more hand sanitizer than you ever thought possible. This makes sense, as alcohol-based hand sanitizer is generally effective at killing germs and keeping you healthy. Still, if officers stop your vehicle because they think you may be driving while impaired, hand sanitizer may cause you to fail a breath test.

Officers often use breath testing devices to gauge the blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers. These testing devices are simple, as they utilize a non-invasive breath sample to determine whether your BAC is over Texas’s 0.08% legal limit.

The problem with residual alcohol

While DWI breath testers can be accurate, they often produce unreliable results. In fact, your diet, medications, medical conditions and hygiene products may interfere with the accuracy of a breath test. Residual alcohol from hand sanitizer also may cause the tester to deliver a false-positive reading.

A strategy for avoiding false-positive results

The biggest threat to the accuracy of a DWI breath test comes from the officer’s hands. If the officer applies alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately before administering the breath test, there is a 10% chance the test will be inaccurate. Therefore, officers should allow at least five minutes to pass between using hand sanitizer and starting a breath test.

You can help too

If officers stop your vehicle, you can reduce your chances of failing a breath test by not applying hand sanitizer. That is, you should wait until your stop concludes before cleaning the germs off your hands. If you fail to do so, you may contribute to false-positive results.

Ultimately, if you are facing DWI charges after failing a breath test, it may be critical to investigate whether you or the officer used alcohol-based hand sanitizer before performing the test.