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Could a "hiatal hernia" lead to me failing my breathalyzer test in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

A "hiatal hernia" is a condition in which a piece of your stomach pushes up into your chest. No one knows what causes it, but it is more common in women, people over 50, and people who are overweight.

The connection between a hiatal hernia and California DUI is not readily apparent--but, in fact, there is a connection.

A hiatal hernia can cause your stomach contents to move up into your esophagus. This in turn can cause acid reflux/heartburn--and, when severe enough, can create the condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

And acid reflux or GERD can most definitely lead innocent people to be charged with DUI because they fail a DUI breath test.

What happens is this: a DUI breath test is supposed to measure the alcohol concentration of air from deep in your lungs, because that is the air that accurately reflects your blood alcohol content (BAC). But with GERD and/or a hiatal hernia, alcohol that is in your stomach may get pushed up into your mouth and show up on the DUI breath test, leading to an inflated BAC reading.

So if you are stopped for DUI after having a small amount to drink and score higher than you think you should have on a DUI breath test, a hiatal hernia may be the culprit.

All this is complicated by the fact that many people who have hiatal hernias are unaware that they have them. Often they lead to mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, and an X-ray is required to diagnose one.

But if you find yourself facing California DUI charges despite not having had all that much to drink before being arrested, a hiatal hernia is one DUI defense option to explore.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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