Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious problem in the United States. Every day, nearly 30 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents that involve alcohol. These accidents have an annual cost to the country of about $60 billion. All it takes to be arrested and then convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) is a blood alcohol level of .08 or more. Many states now require people who have been convicted of this offense have a car breathalyzer installed in their vehicle.
To really understand the blood alcohol level, it is important to understand what happens to alcohol once it enters the body. Most people drink their booze so they assume that when they are subject to using a car breathalyzer or have an interlock device in their car, they assume that they can do things to change their breath and then fool the test. Common ideas for fooling either the car breathalyzer or the unit used by law enforcement include putting a penny under the tongue. Other methods that have been tried include hyperventilating, exercising, putting a small battery under the tongue and using a wide variety of mints and mouthwashes. Some people think that a car breathalyzer or ignition interlock device will not work as well on smokers so they have a cigarette before taking the test. None of these things work because the alcohol that is detected by these tests does not originate with the breath but farther down, in the lungs.
Alcohol that has been consumed finds its way into the blood very quickly. It should be noted that not all booze that people take in is consumed by drinking it. There are reports that women will soak a tampon in vodka (or another alcohol) and insert that in their bodies. People have gotten drunk by taking alcohol in through an enema. There is even a case where a woman gave her husband a sherry enema. He had an ulcer but wanted to get drunk. He thought it would be safer to take in the booze that way. In any case, his wife prepared the amount of sherry he normally drank and put it in an enema. The problem was that the colon’s whole job is to take in liquid so the man got a lot more alcohol than his body could take and he died. The local sheriff did not charge the wife as she was clearly not trying to kill him. No matter how you take in your alcohol, a car breathalyzer will still find it.
After the alcohol hits your blood, a number of things happen. Most of the alcohol is processed by the liver. About 90% of it is handled there. The remaining 10% is excreted through your pee and through your breath. The kind of alcohol you drink is ethyl alcohol, also called ethanol (EtOH). It is a fairly volatile substance and is prone to evaporation. While the alcohol is coursing through your lungs, it gets to go everywhere. It gets into a lot of your organs, your muscles and your lungs. In your lungs, it evaporates and is exhaled along with carbon dioxide. That is what causes you to fail the car breathalyzer. It does not matter what you do to your breath, it will always be there if you have put alcohol into your body. The more you have put in, the more will come out in your breath.
In terms of your blood alcohol, that test is more invasive than a breathalyzer. If you are suspected of driving under the influence, it is unlikely that the police are going to ask for a blood test but they can. If you look on your driver’s license, there may even be a statement that by having the license you are consenting to take any test asked of you to prove you are sober enough to drive. Within minutes of drinking alcohol, it will show up in your blood. You can refuse to take any test but the consequences may be stricter penalties if you are convicted later.
The only way to “beat” any kind of breathalyzer is to not drink. No alcohol in your system equals none in your breath.