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Can you successfully fool a breathalyzer test?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2024 | DWI

The question of whether people can successfully fool a breathalyzer test is a common one. After all, it can be surprisingly easy to feel “fine” even if one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is too high to drive safely. As such, people may wonder if they can keep a trick or two in their pocket in case they’re pulled over when they feel safe enough to drive but an officer suspects them of being impaired.

At the end of the day, however, the answer is that you can’t fool a breathalyzer, and trying to do so can land you in even hotter water than you may already be in. Only time successfully lowers your BAC, and no tips or tricks can fool breath test devices into perceiving that your BAC is lower than it actually is. 

How breathalyzers work

Breathalyzers function by measuring the amount of alcohol in the breath, which correlates with the alcohol level in the blood. When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream through the stomach and intestines. As your blood circulates, some of the alcohol moves into your lung air sacs. When you exhale, a breathalyzer can detect and measure that alcohol concentration, providing an estimate of your BAC.

Some believe that using mouthwash or breath sprays can mask the alcohol on their breath. However, many of these products contain alcohol themselves and can actually increase a BAC reading on a breathalyzer. As these tests measure BAC in the lungs – not the mouth – mouthwash, breath sprays, water, onions, garlic, mints – and even pennies! – are not going to fool them. 

Similarly, some people believe that hyperventilating or holding their breath before taking the test can change the results. Hyperventilating may reduce the concentration of alcohol in the breath slightly, but not enough to fool a test. Holding your breath, on the other hand, can raise a BAC reading.

Alcohol is metabolized by the liver at a rate of about one standard drink per hour. Waiting until your body has processed the alcohol can help you ensure that your BAC drops to legal levels before driving.