Back in 2014, we discussed the potential for false positives in ignition interlock devices (IIDs). As mentioned, false positives can occur in several situations. For one, spicy foods that mix with stomach acid can create methane that will oftentimes yield a positive result because the IID sensor confuses it with alcohol. Other items that have caused false positives include mouthwash, mouth sprays, breath mints, liquid oral analgesics, and even chewing tobacco because they contain alcohol. Similarly, with sweet treats, the sugar and yeast can combine to create a low-level alcohol failure in some cases. Even energy drinks can provide a false positive because many of them contain ethanol. Finally, certain diets may also contribute to IID false positives. For example, diabetics and certain dieters oftentimes have higher-than-average levels of acetone in their bodies which can be easily misread as ethanol—or beverage alcohol—thus resulting in a positive result.
IIDs can also malfunction, thus causing a false positive. Although this is rare, should it occur, the driver should immediately contact his/her IID service provider because the result will still be recorded. The provider can offer assistance in such situations.
What, exactly, is an IID false positive?
Well, in reality, there are no false positives from IIDs because they are designed specifically to detect alcohol in the user’s breath. Thus, if a person uses or consumes a legitimate and non-intoxicating product with alcohol in it, then the device may detect it.
IID fuel cells contain metal that reacts in the present of ethanol which, subsequently, creates ions that emit an electric charge that can be measured. However, when exposed to other chemicals, this metal may also emit ions. Since the fuel cell cannot differentiate between what is causing the ion release, the device, essentially, assumes that it is from ethanol.
Avoiding false positives
Positive IID alcohol tests will oftentimes result in serious consequences ranging from bond revocation to additional jail time to longer license suspensions. With these potential sanctions, the question then becomes one of how to avoid registering a false positive.
Obviously, the best way is to abstain from consuming alcohol. However, nothing is perfect and even someone who does, in fact, abstain from alcohol can face a false positive IID result because of the aforementioned fuel cell detectors used to detect and measure any alcohol consumption.
Thus, if you’ve consumed anything with alcohol, it is highly recommended that you rinse your mouth well with water.
Therefore, if an IID registers a false positive, in most cases, if you wait a few minutes and try again, it should work.
IID violations in Minnesota
Pursuant to Minnesota Statute § 171.306, subd. 5, the penalties for tampering, bypassing, or circumventing the IID; driving, operating, or exercising physical control over a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a certified IID; violating a condition of a restricted or limited driver’s license; or violating any other IID program guidelines is subject to the following driver’s license revocation extensions: 180 days for a first violation, one year for a second violation, or 545 days for a third and each subsequent violation. Additionally, the offender’s participation in the IID program may be terminated, thus subjecting him/her to additional criminal and administrative sanctions.
The bottom line is that if a judge orders you to have an IID installed in your vehicle, then make sure you are extremely cautious to avoid anything that may cause a false positive. In addition to certain foods and other consumables, even body washes, hairspray, and anything else with alcohol on your person have the potential to create a false positive.