Dieting May Cause Incorrect Breathalyzer Readings

I’m about to let you in on a secret: breathalyzers do not measure alcohol, they actually measure the presence of a molecular group in chemical compounds. Ethyl alcohol (aka ethanol) contains the group, and so when the machine detects the presence of this group, it assumes that the detected compound must be ethyl alcohol.

This problem is that there are thousands of compounds containing the molecular group. And of those thousands, over a hundred have been found on human breath.

Breathing gasoline or paint fumes can create false breath test results for days. The problem is particularly acute when the driver is a diabetic, as diabetics often have high levels of acetone in their breath (a compound which contains the group mentioned above).

And diabetics aren’t the only ones who should worry. Acetone can exist in perfectly normal individuals at levels high enough to cause false high breath-alcohol test readings. See “Excretion of Low-Molecular Weight Volatile Substances in Human Breath: Focus on Endogenous Ethanol,” 9 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 246 (1985).

Additionally, fasting or extreme dieting can lead to significantly elevated levels of acetone (which we know can produce false positives in breath testing). Fasting, for example, can increase the acetone sufficiently to create breathalyzer readings of .06%. This means that .06% will be added by the machine to any levels actually caused by alcohol or other compounds. This means that a true reading of .03% would be reported as .09%.

The lesson here? If the breathalyzer results were higher than you anticipated, it may be because the machine was wrong. Contact a Montana DUI lawyer immediately to consult on this issue. I offer a free review of DUI cases exactly because of things like this. It is so important that DUI defendants defend their rights, and the best way to do that is to consult with a Kalispell DUI Lawyer.

Myths on Beating a Breathalyzer

Generally, when people talk about beating a breathalyzer, they’re referring to the portable breath test which officers administer during road side stops. If you fail this, you will likely be placed under arrest and taken to a police station and subjected to a more accurate test. A word from the wise, if you’re planning on using any of these schemes to beat the breathalyzer, think again. Not only are they a little crazy, they don’t work. But regardless of their efficacy, here are a few of my favorites:

Breath Mints
My best guess is that this myth stems from a mistaken idea that the breathalyzer smells to breath to determine whether you’ve been drinking. After all, if mom couldn’t smell the beer on your breath after you had half a pack of Certs, how could the breathalyzer. But, this isn’t the case. The portable breath tests doesn’t smell your breath, so breath mints don’t help.

Another common misconception is that putting pennies in your mouth before blowing into the testing machine will cause it to register the alcohol content in your breath at a lower level. What’s most unfortunate about this myth is that it’s usually based on the idea that copper will reduce the reading. The problem is that modern pennies are no longer made out of copper.

Some people also believe that placing a battery on their tongue will lower the B.A.C. reading. How exactly they plan to keep a battery on their tongue without the officer noticing I’m not sure. But regardless, this doesn’t work – so save yourself the shock.

See breath mints.

None of these will change your B.A.C. reading with the portable breath test. But there is a way to change the result. Unfortunately, this trick will only make your results higher. The test works by analyzing the amount of alcohol in your breath. Because some mouth washes contain a large amount of alcohol, Listerine for example is 27% alcohol, having some of it in your mouth would fool the breath test into giving a higher result than is otherwise warranted. You could do the same thing with any liquid containing alcohol (Tequila for example).

So what have learned from all this? Don’t try to beat the breath test with the myths listed above. They don’t work and will just make you look dumb in front of your friends. And more important than your friends, the police officer will be less than impressed when he notices the AA battery in your mouth.