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How To Trick a Breathalyzer: Myths

State laws view driving under the influence as a serious crime. It's not only dangerous, but getting caught drunk driving will wreak havoc on your life for a long time. You will lose your driver's license, might need to install an ignition interlock device when you can drive again, and will face significant fines. Jail time is a possibility, and you'll feel the impact on your insurance rates for quite some time. 

A DUI conviction will stay on your criminal record for years. It may cost you jobs housing, and even impact your ability to go to college.

Because of the serious consequences involved in a DUI, it is not uncommon to look into ways to avoid an arrest. Police officers routinely use a handheld Breathalyzer or other breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) device to determine if you are driving under the influence of alcohol. A breath-testing device determines the amount of alcohol in your system.

Can you fool a Breathalyzer?

DUI Basics

Law enforcement officers are further trained in spotting indicators of intoxication in drivers. They will look at vehicles that are weaving or driving erratically. Once stopped, they may see if your eyes are bloodshot, if you're slurring your words, and if the smell of alcohol is on your breath.

When a law enforcement officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated (DWI), they ask you to submit to field sobriety tests and chemical tests. Often, they will have a Breathalyzer or similar device to screen your blood alcohol content (BAC). If the device registers a BAC of 0.08% or higher, the officer has probable cause for a DUI arrest.

At the police station, another breath sample taken by a larger, more accurate alcohol detection instrument becomes evidence against you. These instruments undergo rigorous testing and are accurate when properly used and calibrated.

While there are instances when it makes sense to challenge the evidence in a DUI case, you may wonder how to trick a Breathalyzer into providing a lower BAC reading. Many myths and misconceptions exist about how to alter Breathalyzer test results.

The truth is, it's practically impossible to alter BAC test results.

How Breath Testing for Alcohol Works: The Basics

Before looking at the various common myths of how to trick a Breathalyzer, it's important to learn how these instruments work. While drinking, some of the alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream evaporates into the lungs as it moves through the alveoli, the tiny air sacs where gasses are exchanged. 

Most alcohol-detection instruments use infrared spectroscopic analysis, in which the frequency of light waves absorbed by your breath vapor reflects your approximate BAC. The machine then translates this breath data into an estimated percentage in the bloodstream since the two measurements rise and fall proportionally.

You cannot control this chemical reaction between the bloodstream and the lungs. Masking agents, such as mints or mouthwash, will not change the level of detectable alcohol on your breath. The portable roadside devices, known as preliminary alcohol screening devices, are not as accurate as the larger, evidentiary breath test instruments used at the police station. 

Officers are to wait 15 to 20 minutes before conducting a breath test to rule out skewed results from ingesting food, chewing gum, asthma inhalers, or other substances. Testing your blood is still the most accurate way to measure BAC levels.

The Myths: Can You Trick a Breathalyzer or Breath Test?

You may challenge the results of a breath test if the instrument wasn't correctly calibrated. Certain medical conditions can affect a breath test. Although rare, a person with diabetes can have excess acetone on the breath, which can give a false positive for alcohol. However, actively influencing and lowering your estimated BAC level during a breath test is impossible.

Here are some popular Breathalyzer myths:

  • Sucking on copper pennies: This urban legend has been circulating for some time but has no merit. The theory is that copper neutralizes alcohol. This isn't how breath test machines work. They use light waves to gauge alcohol concentration. The police officer will inspect your mouth before a breath test. Also, pennies consist primarily of zinc, with a coating of copper.
  • Breath mints, breath spray, or mouthwash: While alcoholic beverages often have a common odor, ethanol is odorless. While chewing gum may cover up the smell of alcohol when talking to a police officer, it won't trick a breath test. Mouthwash or breath spray containing alcohol could increase your estimated BAC.
  • Drinking coffee or water: Extra fluids will not adequately dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream. There is no way to sober up quickly. It takes time to metabolize alcohol. And coffee, while it may help you be more alert, will not lower your BAC.
  • Eating food: The assumption is that eating food will help absorb alcohol, but this won't affect alcohol already in the bloodstream and measured on the breath.
  • Hyperventilating or holding your breath before blowing: This theory requires you to perform these actions immediately before giving a sample, which the officer would witness. There is perhaps a small amount of scientific evidence that these methods affect your BAC, but officers know them and will retest you. They can also have you submit to a blood test, which you will not be able to fool.
  • Burping or belching into the machine: This myth claims the air from your stomach might contain less alcohol. By burping into the breath testing device or before you blow, you can skew test results. This trick is debunked.
  • Smoking a cigarette before the test: This myth claims that the nicotine in a cigarette will distort the alcohol sensor in the device, slow down the absorption of alcohol, or otherwise affect BAC results. There is no evidence that this is true.

Other Considerations

In general, preliminary breath tests are not used in court. They are a screening tool. You must perform an evidentiary breath test within two hours of your arrest. These machines are very sensitive and more accurate in reading your BAC. You also will undergo further chemical tests. If you somehow tricked the preliminary breath test, you cannot fool a court-ordered blood test.

Even if your preliminary breath test is below the legal intoxication limit of your state, a police officer can arrest you on a DUI charge. If the officer has evidence that you seem intoxicated, they can charge you without meeting the legal limit threshold.

Have Questions About Myths Involving Tricking Breathalyzer Tests? Ask a Lawyer

If you are facing a DUI charge, you should explore your legal options. A DUI conviction will result in license suspension, fines, and other serious sanctions. To get the best possible outcome, contacting a DUI defense attorney near you today is a good idea.

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