When a police officer suspects that a driver might be driving under the influence, the officer routinely uses a handheld device to determine breath-alcohol concentration (BAC). If the driver’s BAC registers 0.08% or more, police have probable cause to arrest the driver for DUI.
However, the handheld reading is not used as evidence in the DUI case. Instead, the driver will be expected to give a breath sample at the station to be analyzed by an instrument that detects alcohol more accurately, most commonly known by the brand name “Breathalyzer.” When calibrated and properly used, this larger instrument is considered to be reasonably accurate.
Sometimes you can fight against the evidence in a DUI case, but the idea that you can fool a Breathalyzer into giving a lower BAC reading is mostly false. Here’s the truth about Breathalyzers.
The Basics of Breath Testing for Alcohol
It’s important to understand how a Breathalyzer works before examining the abounding myths about how to fool one. As you’re drinking, alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream, and some of it evaporates into your lungs through tiny air sacs. Most breath testing instruments use infrared spectroscopic analysis, which measures the approximate BAC through the frequency of light waves absorbed by the driver’s breath vapor. The breath data is then used to estimate the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream, which is proportionate to the BAC.
Handheld roadside breath test devices are less accurate than the instruments at the police station. Police are required to wait at least 15 minutes before testing the breath to avoid skewing the results from asthma inhalers, chewing gum, food, and other substances. BAC levels are still most accurately measured with a blood test.
If the DUI defendant is a diabetic with excessive acetone on his breath that reads as alcohol, or if the breath test device isn’t properly calibrated, he or she may be able to successfully challenge the test results. However, actively lowering your BAC levels for a breath test is near impossible.
Some common myths include:
- Burping – Once believed to skew test results, this myth has now been debunked.
- Ingesting Food – Most people know that food helps to absorb alcohol, but this is only true in the stomach. Alcohol that’s already in the bloodstream and measured on your breath isn’t affected by eating.
- Drinking Excess Water or Coffee – It takes too much time to metabolize alcohol, so additional fluids will not dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream enough to make a difference on your breath test. Also, coffee does not lower your BAC. It only helps you be more alert.
- Chewing Gum – Most alcoholic beverages have an easily recognized odor, but a Breathalyzer tests for odorless ethanol. Chewing gum may trick an officer by covering up the smell of booze, but it will never fool a breath test instrument.
- Mouthwash, Breath Mints, or Breath Spray – Again, you can’t fool a Breathalyzer by covering the alcohol’s odor. However, breath mints, breath spray, or mouthwash that contain alcohol can actually make your reading higher.
- Sucking on Copper Pennies – Not only is this urban myth disgusting, but it’s also completely false. Pennies are primarily made from zinc anyway.
- Holding Your Breath or Hyperventilating – So, this theory does ring true, but you would have to have precise timing and do it right before blowing the sample, which the officer is sure to notice.
Talk to a DUI Lawyer About Your Options
Trying these unfortunate myths may lead to your being charged with a DUI. If so, it’s time to investigate your legal options. DUI convictions can lead to fines, license suspension, and other punishments, but Attorney Mel can help you achieve the best possible results for your case.