How to Beat a Breathalyzer
The most commonly asked question on my website, and probably the internet when it comes to Driving Under the Influence charges, is, without a doubt, “How do I beat the Breathalyzer machine?
The best answer is simpler than you think —
Don’t Drink and Drive!
All kidding aside, the second answer is just as simple – don’t take it. Sacrifice your operator’s license in order to have a leg up in court. Your case becomes much easier to present to a jury when there is no per se prosecution available (the registering of a 0.08 BAC or greater.)
However, let’s explore some additional options.
First, let’s analyze what methods DO NOT work.
- Eating your own underwear – Why? Is the first question that comes to mind. Why would anyone in their right mind try such a ridiculous method? Well, for Dave Zurfluh from Stettler, Alberta, this was’t such a bad idea. Presumably, he was hoping that the cotton would absorb the alcohol in his stomach thus lowering his BAC result. You can’t make this up, folks. Unfortunately for him, by the time he got to the station, not only did the cotton in his stomach did not do anything for the alcohol that was already in his blood, he looked ridiculous because of the hole in his pants. The Breathalyzer test gathers deep lung, or alveolar, air. So, after a few hours of drinking, followed by a few minutes of eating cotton will not do you any good. Thanks for playing.
- UPDATE: Eating toilet paper – This is a new one, folks! Ross McDonald of Iowa City, Iowa, tried to eat toilet paper in the hopes of cheating the breathalyzer machine. Unfortunately, as is stated in number (1) above, the machine is designed to test alveolar air, and therefore his attempt to cover the alcohol with toilet paper would not work; it may just mask the smell or at least absorb any mouth alcohol. Nice try, but you fail.
- UPDATE #2: Eating your own shirt – Here is another doozy, friends.. A Florida stripper tried to eat her own shirt in order to avoid a DUI after she attempted to run away from the police and passively resist arrest. When the breathalyzer technician instructed her not to put anything in her mouth, as he is probably required by state law and after she agreed to take the breathalyzer test, the stripper “stuffed a large portion of her shirt into her mouth and began chewing at the fabric.” Although it would not have much of an effect on her breathalyzer result, more than likely it did earn her a ‘refusal’ mark on the breathalyzer due to her once more ‘passive’ resistance, and secured a lack of an Intoxilyzer number for the State. So, can we call that kind of a win?
- Eating your own feces – O.K., first off, disgusting. I can’t even. But, an Ontario man in March, 2005 tried it. And failed. Not only did he fail, but he will now forever be remembered as the man who ate his own feces. Good luck to you, buddy.
- Eating smelly foods to overpower the alcohol scent – While it may not be such a bad idea to throw the cop’s scent off the booze trail, it is completely and utterly useless for a Breathalyzer machine. The inner sample chamber is mechanically calibrated to detect any presence of ethanol (along with some other substances depending on the amount of filters installed, etc., which could artificially inflate your BAC result). The device is so sensitive, in fact, that it has a “mouth alcohol” detector, so if you have alcohol present in your mouth, the machine should return an error. The fact that these detectors never work is besides the point, but they’re there. So, fail.
- Drinking Zima instead of “real” drinks – Seriously? Well, apparently so. Some teenagers believed that could do the trick. I guess under the erroneous belief that there are different “kinds” of alcohol since Zima doesn’t make your breath smell as bad. Alcohol is alcohol, no matter what it tastes or smells like. You are the weakest link, goodbye.
- Sucking on a penny – The idea behind this popular myth is that the copper in the penny will neutralize the alcohol. Well, similar to (5) above, the alcohol is not coming from your mouth. I am not sure about the reaction that occurs when alcohol meets copper, but I can tell you the penny won’t protect you from the alcohol in your lungs. Furthermore, according to at least one source, pennies are no longer made of copper. It is now 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper. So even if copper would have been helpful, its negligible quantity in the penny would require a plethora of them — you can bet the officers will notice your scheme and quickly stop it.
- Using listerine or some other mouthwash – Worst. Idea. Ever. Why? Because nearly all mouth washes contain, what? That’s right — Alcohol! So you are combating the presence of alcohol in your body — with more alcohol! What if your result would have been less than 0.08, initially? Well, you’ve just secured a certain trip to the jailhouse because you will most likely blow way above 0.08 due to all the fresh alcohol in your mouth. Mouth alcohol detectors rarely, if ever, work. Explaining it to the cop won’t do you any good. Nice try.
- Chewing gum – Now here is a good trick to throw off the cop (if you can hold your liquor). May be he’ll let you go if he can’t smell alcohol and you look fine to him. However, again, like numbers (5) and (8), above, the gum does not alter the workings of the inner chamber inside the breathalyzer machine. Depending on the gum, it may end up “helping” you as much as a mouth wash, due to their containing alcohol.
- Inhaling instead of blowing – Nope. The machine has pressure detectors in place to detect if air is being blown in. You will succeed in making the officer angry, though. Not sure if that is what you want..
- Burping, belching, or regurgitating – This will bring up alcohol from your stomach content into your mouth, which will in turn elevate your BAC levels. Sorry, try again.
- Smoking a cigarette will mask the alcohol – Actually, it will likely elevate your BAC result due to the fact that some breathalyzers may be affected by acetaldehyde (the chemical that is released in cigarette smoke when sugars, sorbitol, and glycerol are burnt.)
- Eating peanut butter – This one is at the bottom of the list because it is the closest thing to something that could work (if you could wash your lungs with it). It is true that the high levels of sodium, which can be found in peanut butter, will neutralize ethanol by creating two byproducts – sodium ethoxide (also known as alkoxide) and hydrogen gas. But, again, the problem is that the peanut butter travels from the mouth into your stomach, completely bypassing the lungs — where the alveolar air, which is full of alcohol, is about to come from and be tested by the machine. This would be a great trick to eliminate mouth alcohol. Also, good luck getting your hands on some peanut butter at the police station — or getting it in your mouth with your hands handcuffed behind your back. I don’t think this method is in your cards.
Now, let’s see what may work (some of these options are completely theoretical):
- Again, the best way is to not drink and drive – Speaks for itself.
- The second best way is to refuse the breathalyzer test – Again, easy. You hand over your license to the nice police officer for failing to comply with the state’s implied consent laws and politely thank him as you are escorted to your “comfortable and clean” jail cell, where you will be spending the next few hours. You make your lawyer’s case a lot easier, the possibility of a jury trial much more of a reality, and your chances of beating your DUI case increase exponentially (with the right lawyer who can attack the officer’s procedures and training the stand.) So, refuse the tests, if you can afford to lose your license. Special Note: Do not attempt this method if you are own a Commercial Driver’s License or a Pilot’s License, as the resulting hardship may be tougher on you and your career than simply fighting the uphill battle of a per se DUI case.
- Blowing just the necessary length of time and stopping – If you are truly in a pickle and think you did not have that much to drink, and you are afraid to lose your license, and you believe that enough time has elapsed, although this goes against every rule in the book — blow just enough to where the machine registers the fact that you’ve blown, and not a millisecond longer(good luck with that timing). Well, why is that? The officer is interested in you blowing as long as possible. That will ensure an artificially elevated result, even if you’re under the limit (how else can you explain the plethora of DUIs where the person legitimately drank 1-2 beers and blows a 0.12.) The longer you blow, the more alcohol enters the sample chamber of the machine, and the more molecules of ethanol are captured by the Intoxilyzer 5000EN’s detector via the process of infrared absorption. If you blow just the right amount of time, you can at least keep the number low and more in line with what you should be registering (in theory — as these machines have a lot of other problems). You’ll of course have to learn what sounds the machine makes when a sufficient sample is provided, as the officer will want you to continue to blow. Again, this method, although possible to at least keep you in the right range, is laden with difficulties. I DO NOT recommend it.
- Hyperventilating or exercising – This could work, but the problem is that you won’t be able to breathe out all of the alcohol — that would be ridiculous. It’s in your system, in your blood stream, in your lungs, and possibly still in your mouth. The most you could do is lower your breath test result by 10-20%, so if you’re close to the limit, you may be able to blow under it. If you’re stone cold drunk it won’t do more than simply make you dizzy, which could lead to you throwing up — never a good idea… Especially with an officer present — who is suspecting you have been operating under the influence! Good job, you just helped make his case for him. Also, good luck hyperventilating or exercising with the officer around. Surely he won’t notice..
- Burping, belching, or regurgitating (yes I realize its on the list of things that don’t work) – Here’s the thing, the breathalyzer operator is supposed to have you under continuous observation for 15 – 20 minutes (depending on the state law – it’s 20 minutes in Kentucky see KRS 189A.103(3)(a)). If you make an audible burp, belch, or regurgitate stomach contents periodically, the breathalyzer technician, assuming he conforms to the breathalyzer operator’s manual , must reset the 20 minute observation period — because you brought back alcohol in your stomach into your mouth. Gross, but possibly effective. The problems are that (a) s/he may not care and tell you to take the test anyway (which could be a great defense in court, especially if there is a video recording), but again, you’ve accomplished nothing at beating the test; (b) you run the risk that some of the puke or belch substances will remain in your mouth and elevate the result even after an additional 20 minutes; and (c) if you’re still digesting previous alcohol, your BAC is on the rise — more time elapsed = higher BAC. You’re just digging your grave even further and where your result may have been lower (albeit still above 0.08), you may end up with an aggravator if you blow a 0.15 or above in Kentucky.
- Rinsing out your lungs – This is, of course, a joke. It’s the dumbest thing you can possibly think of doing (and, believe it or not, it has been tried). This is a sure way to drown yourself. DO NOT DO THIS.
There really is no “scientific” or foolproof method of going from a result above 0.08 to one below it. The best way to avoid a DUI is to not drink and drive.
However, if you are charged with a DUI, you need experienced and knowledgeable counsel to help you. Please, contact me or call me at (502) 931-6788.
I’m always here or you, my friends.
The DUI Guy