Can Esophageal Reflux Disorder Affect Results Breathalyzer Alcohol Test Results ?
In People v. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d 182, 817 N.E.2d 489, 288 Ill. Dec. 131 (2004), the defendant, who had been charged with DUI, testified that he suffered from an esophageal reflux disorder. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 185-86, 817 N.E.2d at 491.
He testified that he had experienced an episode of reflux, causing acid from his stomach to rise into his throat, during the observation period before his breath test, but that he did not tell anyone or exhibit any outward symptoms. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 186, 817 N.E.2d at 491.
The defendant also presented medical testimony to support his claims. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 186-87, 817 N.E.2d at 492.
The supreme court affirmed the trial court's grant of the defendant's motion to suppress. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 192, 817 N.E.2d at 495.
In affirming the trial court, the supreme court first looked at the words of the breath-test regulation. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 190, 817 N.E.2d at 493-94.
The court "categorically" rejected the State's argument that the sole inquiry should be whether the officer actually observed any vomiting or regurgitation during the observation period. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 190, 817 N.E.2d at 493.
Looking at the text of the regulation, the court ruled that a proper inquiry focuses on the actions of the one taking the test, not on the observations of the officer doing the testing. Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 190, 817 N.E.2d at 494.
The court also considered public policy and found that "the purpose of section 1286.310(a) is to ensure that only accurate breath-alcohol tests are admitted into evidence against a criminal defendant." Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 190, 817 N.E.2d at 494.
The court determined that "reliability, after all, is the paramount concern." Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 191, 817 N.E.2d at 494.
The court explained its ruling, that the evidence of the breath test should be suppressed, as follows:
"Section 1286.310(a) exists because regurgitation within 20 minutes of a breath-alcohol test can render a false positive. In other words, a lack of compliance with section 1286.310(a) has the potential to create criminals out of people who are not." Bonutti, 212 Ill. 2d at 192, 817 N.E.2d at 495.