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Debunking Some Common Breathalyzer Myths


A breathalyzer test is used to estimate blood alcohol content (BAC). Blood alcohol content, which is the estimate of the amount of alcohol in the blood as a percentage, is calculated in grams per 100 mL of blood. Therefore, a BAC of, for example, 0.07 means the blood is 0.07% alcohol by volume. In Indiana, the legal BAC level is 0.08%. This means that in Indiana, it is illegal for people to drive or operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. If caught operating a vehicle with a BAC above the legally allowed limit, you will be charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI).

As a driver, you may have heard about how you can beat a breathalyzer test or what this test can and cannot do. You have may have even tried some of these things once or twice. The truth is that there are many breathalyzer myths out there, and you might be shocked to learn that most of the things you probably believe about breathalyzers are not true. Understanding the truth can help you protect yourself.

Below, we debunk some of the most common myths about breathalyzers;

Myth #1: Mints, Breath Fresheners, and Mouthwash Can Hide Alcohol and Lower BAC Readings

Mints, breath fresheners, and mouthwash can hide the smell of alcohol, but they cannot lower BAC readings. Using mouthwash before taking a breathalyzer test can even result in inflated BAC readings because some mouthwash contains alcohol.

Myth #2: Pennies Can Help You Beat a Breathalyzer Test

This myth which may have originated from the copper in the US penny, which may have been believed to cause a chemical reaction with a drunk person’s saliva, is widespread. The truth is that placing a penny under your tongue or sucking or chewing on a penny cannot lower BAC readings. Also, other things like garlic, charcoal pills, other currencies, and snake oil cannot reduce BAC readings.

Myth #3: Breathalyzers Only Work Well on Non-smokers

This is only partially true. If a low-cost semiconductor breathalyzer is used to administer a test to a person who has just finished smoking, the high acetaldehyde levels may affect the test results. However, law enforcement officers use breathalyzers that are sensitive enough not to be thrown by acetaldehyde.

Myth #4: You Can Beat a Breathalyzer Test by Hyperventilating, Exercising, or Holding Your Breath

This is also only partially true. According to one old study, vigorous exercise and hyperventilation lowered subjects’ BAC readings by up to 10%. On the other hand, holding their breath increased BAC readings. However, vigorous exercise, hyperventilating, and holding your breath are all activities that can lead to you feeling light-headed and gasping for air. Such behavior can capture an officer’s attention.

Myth #5: Drinking Caffeine Can Change Your BAC Level

Some people take soda or coffee after drinking alcohol so they can sober up and drive home. Taking caffeine and sugar after drinking can help you become more alert but cannot change your BAC. According to the CDC, caffeine does not impact the metabolism of alcohol.

Contact an Indianapolis DUI & OWI Lawyer

If you need help with an OWI/DUI case, contact a skilled and dedicated Indianapolis DUI & OWI lawyer at Rigney Law LLC.



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