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Did you know you can get a DWI charge in North Carolina without actually drinking beer, wine, or liquor? Case-in-point: a Morganton man is facing DWI charges for ingesting too much vanilla extract.

Travis Williams, 43, crashed his truck into a utility pole during a recent rainstorm. When the police arrived, they noticed Williams’ slurred speech, dazed look, and a strong vanilla odor emanating from the vehicle. His breathalyzer test produced a reading that was more than triple the legal limit.

Upon searching the vehicle, officers found five bottles of vanilla extract. Four were empty, and the fifth was halfway full. What happened?

Many people don’t realize this, but vanilla extract has an alcohol content equivalent to a 70-proof bottle of alcohol. According to reports, Williams allegedly got himself drunk off of a concoction of milk and vanilla extract.

Here’s the kicker, though: vanilla extract isn’t the only consumable item that can produce a positive breathalyzer test – not even close. Many foods and common household products contain alcohol and you probably don’t even realize it. Worse, some products can essentially “trick” breathalyzers into finding alcohol when none is present.

When consumed in large quantities, items like these may implicate you in a North Carolina DWI charge.

Below, we’re going to look at a few so you know what to watch out for.

Honey buns

That’s right – honey buns. In one test, a honey bun produced a breathalyzer reading of nearly double the legal limit. Why? The specific reasons are unclear, but some white-flour based foods like honey buns can mimic the effects of alcohol in a breathalyzer.

If you’re going to be driving and want to avoid DWI charges, your best bet is to stay away from these tasty treats.

Meats and main dishes

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that if alcohol is added at the end of the cooking process, a meat or main dish can retain up to 85 percent of the alcohol. Additionally, meats marinated in alcohol will also retain about 70 percent of the alcohol content even after cooking.

Common examples of potentially dangerous alcohol-infused main dishes are chicken marsala, chili or soup made with beer, and meats coated with whiskey-based glazes or wine-reduction sauces.

Luckily, stews that are simmered with alcohol for 2.5 hours will have an alcohol content that is lower than the .08 legal limit.


Several kinds of desserts have a significant alcohol content. If a dessert is not baked, such as a mousse pie with crème de menthe, the full alcohol content remains. This is also true of filled candies, such as truffles with rum or crème liquors.

According to tests by the USDA, cookies baked for 15 minutes retain 40 percent of their alcohol content from vanilla or other extracts. Pies or cakes baked for an hour keep 25 percent of their alcohol content.

Flambé dishes

North Carolina DWI Lawyer

Dishes that are finished with alcohol that is lighted, such as bananas foster or baked Alaska, still retain a large portion of the alcohol content. The USDA estimates that 75 percent of the alcohol remains on flambé dishes.


The popular medication NyQuil is an over-the-counter cold and cough syrup known for helping you sleep through the night when you’re feeling sick. Unfortunately, it also contains plenty of alcohol, which can get you charged for DWI – even if you had no intention of getting drunk.


Some mouthwash brands contain over 25 percent alcohol. If you are concerned that using mouthwash could raise your risks for a DWI charge, it may be wise to switch to an alcohol-free brand.

If you are facing DWI charges for ingesting any of these items, contact an experienced lawyer today to learn about the possible defenses for your case, and what you can do to get the best possible outcome.


About the Author:

Jan Elliott Pritchett?is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of?Schlosser & Pritchett?and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense.? He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.


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