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Top Breathalyzer Myths Debunked

  1 Comment

Even though MythBusters already did their “Beat the Breath Test” episode, people all over still want to know how to beat a breathalyzer DUI test.  In case you missed Adam and Jamie’s spirited experiments, here are some of the top urban myths about beating a breathalyzer test:

Myth #1: Put pennies in your mouth

Why it supposedly works– The copper in pennies is supposed to create an electrical current in your mouth, which in turn will disrupt the readings from the breathalyzer device.


Why it really doesn’t work– Pennies are made of about 97% zinc, and are only coated topically with the copper.  Moreover, police officers allow a 15-20 minute delay before rendering the test.  This allows any trace amounts of interfering substances to dissipate (such as mouth alcohol or copper).

So, while the price of gold is at an all time high lately, it turn’s out that copper is pretty much useless when it comes to tricking the breath machine.  But if you enjoy putting one of the dirtiest objects known to man in your mouth, feel free to do so.

Myth #2: Bart Simpson style:  Eat your underwear

Why it supposedly works– The cotton (or silk if you prefer) is supposed to absorb the alcohol in your stomach.  This is what David Zurflah of Canada did- while seated in the back of a patrol car, Zurflah quickly tore the crotch out of his underpants and stuffed it in his mouth.


Why it really doesn’t work– Breathalyzer tests work by analyzing what’s coming out of your lungs, not the alcohol in your stomach.  Zurflah ended up registering a 0.08%, the legal limit.  On that note, ingesting other items such as garlic, onions, or even peanuts won’t do the trick either, and neither will belching.

While it sounds funny, this myth can eat my shorts, dude.  Your delicates are not a delicacy.

Myth #3:  Use breath mints, breath spray, or mouthwash

Why it supposedly works– Such products will mask the odor of alcohol, and police will likely skip the breathalyzer test as your breath will be minty and fresh.


Why it really doesn’t work- These products can actually contain alcohol, especially the sprays and mouthwashes.  (On a side note, Nyquil and other over-the-counter medicines also contain alcohol.) Using them prior to a breathalyzer test will actually result in a higher reading on the device.  And if you’ve been pulled over, chances are the cops already suspect you are drunk.

Do not use unless you are trying to score a date with the officer.

Myth #4: Zima is the drink of choice

Why it supposedly works– Zima, a popular colorless alcopop beverage, has been reported to leave no alcohol smell on your breath.


Why it really doesn’t work– Even if there are no alcohol odors coming from your trap, the breathalyzer can still read it.  Zima contains about as much alcohol as a beer, and the device will definitely pick it up.

Verdict: Not a good “malternative”.

Myth #5:  Hyperventilating, holding your breath and other breath manipulations

Why it supposedly works- The breath that is stored in the deeper parts of your lungs contain more alcohol, while shallow breaths only reach the top part of your lungs where less alcohol is emitted.


Why it really doesn’t work- Of all these myths, this one seems to hold the most weight.  It turns out that studies have shown hyperventilating reduces readings by as much as 10%.  Running up and down a flight of stairs also has similar effects.  Holding your breath, however, increases the readings up to 20%.  Not blowing hard into the breathalyzer is now out of the picture, as newer models can detect such irregularities.

The problem with these breath techniques is that you may become dizzy, even more dizzy than you already are.  Better yet, you might simply just pass out, in which case a breathalyzer test obviously won’t be necessary.



Sorry to spoil the party, but it looks like the only way to be absolutely safe is to not drive while you are drunk.  Drunk driving is not cool anyways, and the idea of trying to fool the breathalyzer test ignores the real problem- dangerous drivers on the road.  So be safe out there, and realize that efforts to skirt the test are pretty much futile, like an uphill battle.  Or as our patron of pennies Abraham Lincoln put it, when you’ve got an elephant by the hind legs and he’s trying to run, it’s best to just let him run.

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  • David

    I love this post. As a DUI attorney I have heard probably 100 different ways that people think they can either beat a breath test or a reason why the breath test was wrong. I mainly practice in blood draw jurisdictions now so I no longer get to hear these great tails.

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