ELLSWORTH — A Hancock County jury found a Miami Beach woman guilty of driving under the influence despite a defense that her Invisalign braces trapped alcohol in her mouth, which led to a false blood alcohol level reading.
Align Technology, a San Jose, Calif., firm, created the orthodontic device Invisalign, which the company describes as “removable, clear aligners” to gradually straighten teeth.
The defendant, Jenna Montero, 23, was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant on July 5, 2009, in Blue Hill. An Intoxilyzer machine at the Hancock County Jail registered her blood alcohol level as .10 percent.
Blood alcohol levels of .08 and above are considered under the influence, said prosecuting attorney Bill Entwisle.
Montero’s defense attorney, William Bly of Biddeford, hired a law enforcement officer, Jan Semenoff, from Saskatchewan, Canada, who is certified on many machines that test blood-alcohol levels.
“The alcohol can get in between the Invisalign and the teeth and get stored there,” said Semenoff. “My problem is this is a tight-fitting device, which is even worse at trapping alcohol than a loose-fitting device. My concern is if she wasn’t allowed to take it out and rinse her mouth — that would lead to a false positive.”
“The Invisalign devices are interesting because they’re relatively new to the dental market,” Semenoff said. “They present a new problem.”
Semenoff told the jury about a study that had denture-wearers swish brandy in their mouths then spit it out before taking an Intoxilyzer test.
The study indicated that 37 percent of those tested registered a false positive, meaning they tested positive for being under the influence of alcohol despite not having ingested any alcohol, the officer said.
Maine State Police Trooper Dan Ryan was following Montero’s car and saw the vehicle drift across the centerline of the Mines Road several times, the officer testified.
The trooper did not know that Montero had the Invisalign device on her teeth when he administered the Intoxilyzer test.
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