Top Five Breathalyzer Myths

| Dec 11, 2019 |

During the early years of the DWI crackdown, Texas lawmakers amended Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. Under these new amendments, people who have a BCA above the legal limit are intoxicated as a matter of law.

So, the Breathalyzer test is more important than ever. Even if the defendant refuses, prosecutors can say things in court like “the defendant must have thought s/he was going to fail the test and that’s why s/he refused it”. A Weatherford criminal defense attorney can counter most of these arguments.

Unfortunately, many defendants try to self-help their way through the Breathalyzer by tricking it. These tricks, even if they are based in fact, never work.

Sucking a Penny

This Breathalyzer myth may be the most persistent one, probably because it is partially true. When copper and saliva mix, they form a chemical compound which interferes with Breathalyzer operation. So, the BAC count may be artificially low.

Unfortunately, U.S. pennies contain almost no copper. They are mostly zinc and some other cheap metals. Furthermore, the effect is so slight that the defendant must have a mouthful of copper to impact the test. Officers would spot that in an instant.


This Breathalyzer trick has some support as well. Rapidly blowing alcohol particles out of your lungs decreases the BAC estimate. The effect is not complete, because alcohol is constantly metabolized, but it is noticeable.

Police officers are onto this trick. If you start hyperventilating before the test, they will ask you to stop and calm down before you blow into the Breathalyzer. Alternatively, if you hyperventilate during the test, the officer will probably ask you to take the test again. Things could get interesting from a legal standpoint if the defendant refuses to provide another sample.

Drinking Coffee

Caffeine may help people feel more alert, but it does not make them more sober. The relationship between coffee and the Breathalyzer is a complete myth.

However, drinking coffee before you depart could help you drive better, thus reducing your chances of being pulled over. Additionally, when the officer approaches the car, the officer may smell coffee breath instead of alcohol-tinged breath.

Eating an Onion

Truthfully, we’re not sure how this one got started. Unlike copper and saliva, onion and saliva causes no relevant chemical reaction. And, unless it was a really strong onion, it may not mask the odor of alcohol either.

Sucking Instead of Blowing

This one is sneaky. Instead of blowing into the Breathalyzer, the defendant sucks on it. So, the sensors may detect some mouth alcohol, but not alcohol particles deep in the lungs. If you can get away with it, this trick often works.

The “getting away with it” is the hard part. Officers are not stupid. They can tell the difference between sucking and blowing. Suspects who suck almost always must retake the test. In these situations, the defendant was clearly not following directions and trying to fool the test.

The Breathalyzer is not foolproof, but it is not easy to fool. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.