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Sharon Gillson

Can Having GERD Get You Out of a DWI?

By September 7, 2010

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Does that sound a bit far fetched? I thought so too, when I read a lead-in for a blog post by Jeremy Taylor. According to lawyer Tom Anelli (the blog post says Tony, Anelli's website says Tom), who refers to himself as The DWI Guy, he has successfully used having GERD as a DWI defense.

Anelli has stated, according to the Asylum blog post, "Toxicologists and pharmacologist will testify that GERD is intensified by stress. Obviously being given a breathalyzer is a stressful situation, making it more likely for mouth-alcohol contamination to occur." He goes on to say, "It's a great defense. I've used it in cases when someone has blown a 3.6."

Mr Anelli isn't alone in either using GERD as a defense in a DWI case, or explaining why it can be a cause for false breathalyzer readings. Doing a quick search on the Internet gave me articles and blog posts from lawyers in other states who have also taken the same stance. However, I wasn't able to find any studies or medical sources that supported these claims. In fact, the opposite may be true. There is an abstract of a study on the reliability of breath-alcohol analysis of individuals with GERD, where the researchers concluded, "We conclude that the risk of alcohol erupting from the stomach into the mouth owing to gastric reflux and falsely increasing the result of an evidential breath-alcohol test is highly improbable."

While it appears to be true that some lawyers are able to use GERD as a successful defense against DWI, breathalyzer tests aren't the only means police officers use to test an individual's sobriety. A person may blame a 3.6 breathalyzer reading on his or her GERD, but if he or she can't walk a straight line, GERD hasn't been shown to affect a person's legs.

What do you think? You can share your opinion by clicking on the Comments link below this post.

Comments
September 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm
(1) Roberta Butler says:

I think this is ridiculous. I have a medical background and can understand that if the alcohol you are drinking is coming back up, that you could very well have a higher reading due to alchohol in the mouth. However, I have a feeling that the readings that are extremely high, may not be totally accurate because of this, I believe that their readings will still be at a level that they should not be drinking and driving. I live in Canada and our level of acceptable alcohol levels have just dropped once again to 0.5 from 0.8. From what I hear even one drink could be too much. Anyone under 21 there is zero tolerance. They cannot have any alcohol. These readings are safest for those drinking and especially for those who are not and are out on the road.

September 15, 2010 at 11:08 am
(2) Pam says:

Well, if “GERD is intensified by stress” that’s awful. Seems like having GERD would create stress, and then you’d have a cycle going that might never stop. When I had chemo, I felt as if I had GERD from head to toe. Never occurred to me to check my breath for a smell of alcohol. But I wish that having chemobrain could get me out of a traffic ticket!

Seriously though, where I live, we have no-refusal weekends where the cops can get a warrant to draw your blood if they suspect DWI and you won’t do the breathalyzer. I’ll bet that even a good ambulance-chasing lawyer can’t get around a blood alcohol test.

Maybe if GERD throws off the results of a breathalyzer test, patients should carry a doctor’s certificate that they have the condition?

September 15, 2010 at 3:32 pm
(3) Abby says:

Give me a break! While I understand the possibility of acid reflux affecting a person’s breath if they drank an alcoholic beverage, I think it’s beyond believable for a person who is under the legal limit for alcohol to blow a 3.6 (over 4 times the legal limit in many states). More believable is that this person was drunk, but who had a lawyer who was good enough to convince people it was all GERD’s fault.

November 20, 2010 at 7:23 pm
(4) Joe says:

I know first hand that people with GERD can blow very high readings and be sober. I have tested them on various equipment and have repeatedly shown it can occur. Anyone that says it can not is incorrect. That is why the State require 20 minutes obseration period to eliminate any mouth alcohol. GERD results in alcohol being introduced to mouth cavity and therefore can effect the results dramatically.

August 21, 2012 at 10:58 am
(5) Margaret says:

medical background is not impressive with regard to body chemistry, rather a Biochemist would be qualified to comment

January 3, 2013 at 2:27 am
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