For years, rumors have floated around the Kalamazoo area about ways to “beat” a DUI breath test. That is, if a police officer or sheriff’s deputy pulls you over and asks you to blow into their roadside breath test device, there are supposedly ways you can hide a high blood-alcohol content from the machine.
While the roadside devices and the breath test machines at southwest Michigan’s police stations are not perfect, they are highly sophisticated equipment. You cannot fool one of these machines by doing any of the following:
- Sucking on a penny. Supposedly, the copper in pennies can mask alcohol on a person’s breath. But it isn’t true. Besides, pennies are mostly made of zinc.
- Freshening your breath. Chewing gum, having a breath mint or gargling mouthwash covers up the odor of alcohol on your breath but does not affect a breathalyzer’s accuracy.
- Eating or drinking. Food will not “sop up” alcohol that is already in your bloodstream, and drinking water will not dilute the alcohol in your system quickly enough to make a difference.
- Hyperventilating or holding your breath. Technically, these techniques can throw off a breath test’s results, but only if you do one of them precisely right and just before taking the test. The officer will probably get suspicious.
- Belching. Burping just before or during the breath test does not skew the device’s reading.
But this is not to say that if you blow a .08 percent or higher, you are definitely guilty of drinking and driving.
Real reasons breathalyzers can fail
Breath test machines are only as accurate as the human operating it. They must be properly calibrated before use. An uncalibrated device can give an artificially high reading and cause a driver to be unfairly arrested for DUI. Also, the devices can mistake excess acetone on a person’s breath (a common symptom of diabetes) for alcohol.