You may have heard that chewing gum, sucking on a penny, swigging mouthwash,
eating a breath mint or chugging water can help you "cheat" a
breathalyzer test. Unfortunately for anyone who was relying on this to get out of a
DUI arrest and conviction, these methods do not work.
Breathalyzer tests measuring a subject's breath alcohol using infrared
light. The subject breathes into the machine, and a breath sample is collected
in a chamber in the device, which passes the infrared light wave through
the sample to determine the level of alcohol in the subject's breath.
blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is then derived from this information. The purpose of the instrument
is to measure the level of alcohol from deep within a person’s lungs.
Though it may seem that there should be ways to manipulate a breath test
reading, chewing gum or consuming a breath mint may only affect one's
mouth alcohol level, if anything at all.
Through the years people have tried all types of methods to beat breath
tests and avoid
DUI convictions. Snopes has an interesting article on the subject, citing
a few strange incidents where drivers seemed willing to try anything to
avoid a DUI, including:
- In 1985, the arresting officer in a DUI case in Alberta testified that
a driver he arrested on suspicion of drunk driving began eating his underwear
in the back of the police cruiser on the way to the station, with the
belief that doing so would soak up the excess alcohol in his system.
- In 2005, another driver tried to beat the breathalyzer by stuffing his
mouth full of his own feces, only to provide two breath test readings
that were both twice the legal limit.
The myth that sucking on a penny prior to a breath test appears to have
come from a misconception regarding the copper content in pennies that
can somehow interfere with the breathalyzer’s ability to read the
alcohol content in one's breath. This is simply untrue, aside from
the fact that pennies have been made of 97.5% zinc encased in a copper
coating since 1982.
Breath mints may disguise the odor of alcohol on one's breath, but
they do little to actually affect the presence of alcohol. Similarly,
drinking large amounts of water or chewing gum are unlikely to have any
impact on the level of alcohol in one's blood and therefore the presence
of alcohol in one's breath.
Why Cheating a Breath Test Doesn’t Work
These anti-breath test methods are all ineffective because of the manner
in which breath tests are administered. In California, officers who administer
breath tests are supposed to wait at least 15 minutes prior to administering
a test to monitor a subject to make sure he or she does not smoke, drink,
eat, chew gum, vomit or burp.
So, eating a mint or stuffing a penny in your mouth when you see the lights
of a police car behind you would be an ineffective method of cheating
a breath test. This waiting period may work in a driver's favor, as
burping or vomiting may increase one's mouth alcohol level, which
would unfairly skew the results of a breath test, subjecting it to challenge
If you are arrested for DUI and a breath test is administered without the
proper waiting period, this may provide grounds for a valid
defense against the validity of the test.
Legally Beating the Breath Test
What can you do to challenge the breath test – and win? The first
step is to involve an attorney who can investigate the circumstances surrounding
your arrest and breathalyzer to determine whether there is any way to
bring its validity into question. An improperly administered test, device
that has not been calibrated in accordance with state standards or other
issue may prove that the test was inaccurate.
Rather than relying on a penny to help you beat a breathalyzer, involve an
Orange County DUI attorney as soon as possible.