For How Long Can A Breathalyzer Detect Alcohol?
If you’ve been pulled over on the suspicion of impaired driving or you have been courted ordered to have a car breathalyzer, formally known as an ignition interlock device installed in your car, you will need to be able to provide a breath sample. Learn how to do a breath test on an ignition interlock device, plus separate fact from fiction when it comes to beating a breathalyzer test.
When is a breath test required?
Breath tests are required for those suspected of drinking and driving. Law enforcement personnel utilize handheld breathalyzers for the prosecution driving under the influence of alcohol.
If you have been convicted of a DUI, OUI, or DWI related offense, you might be required to submit a breath test to an ignition interlock device (IID) before starting your vehicle. If you’re on probation for an alcohol-related offense, you might be required to use an in-home breathalyzer.
Additionally, commercial breathalyzers provide a convenient, portable way to self-test your breath alcohol levels.
How does a breathalyzer device used by law enforcement work?
A breathalyzer handheld device that will measure your breath to determine alcohol levels and whether they are below the legal limit. To use a portable breathalyzer, the user must blow into the device for a few seconds in a steady stream. The device will indicate when to start and stop but this usually lasts for about 5 seconds. Sensors within a portable breathalyzer will then measure the alcohol level of air in the lungs and supply a Breath Alcohol Content estimate.
What is an ignition interlock device? How does an IID work?
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer that is installed in your vehicle to prevent drinking and driving. It is made up of a mouthpiece, a handheld unit which attaches to your vehicle’s ignition system. You are required to blow into the mouthpiece to test your alcohol levels before starting your car. If your BrAC is below the limit set by your state, your vehicle will start. If your Breath BrAC is above your state’s limit, your vehicle will not start until you submit a clean, alcohol-free breath sample. Learn more about ignition interlock devices and how they work.
What should someone know about breathalyzer tests before taking one?
1. Do you know your state laws and legal limits?
Each state has different BAC (blood alcohol content) limits for drivers. If you have no previous charges, a first drunk driving offense the limit tends to be .08. Utah has a .05 limit, and other states are moving to adopt this limit. If you currently have a restricted license, and have an IID in your vehicle, the legal limit for you is likely lower than for individuals who don’t have restrictions. You can check your states laws by going to the state requirements page and entering your zip code or by clicking on your states name at the bottom of the page.
Learn more about the breathalyzer and alcohol limits in your state
2. Do you know the blow pattern?
Different brands of breathalyzers utilize different blow patterns to collect samples. Intoxalock’s breathalyzer uses a blow-breathe-blow pattern. This requires the person providing a sample to blow into the mouthpiece for three seconds, then inhale through the mouthpiece for three seconds, and finally blow back into the mouthpiece for a final three seconds. Other companies require users to perform a blow pattern at the same time that they are also required to hum.
With an Intoxalock device, you will never need to hum to pass a breathalyzer test. The more complicated the breathing pattern the higher the chances are that the person giving them will experience human error. This human error can lead to the breathalyzer registering a missed test which could negatively impact the person giving the sample.
3. How to give a clean breathalyzer sample?
Refrain from eating, drinking, or having a cigarette or any other tobacco products for at least 15 minutes prior to submitting your breath sample. Waiting after you’ve eaten or had anything to drink before blowing into a breathalyzer can help ensure an accurate result.
- Avoid Any Products Containing Alcohol
Using mouthwash or any other product that contains ingredients with alcohol can also cause your breathalyzer to register a BAC level. In addition to waiting at least 15 minutes after eating and drinking any non-alcohol products, you can rinse your mouth with plain water to flush out any particles, and make sure to keep your breathalyzer mouthpiece free of debris.
- Responsibility for Positive Samples
It’s important to remember, regardless of the source of alcohol, you are held accountable for every Breath Alcohol Concentration reading that is submitted to your device so be sure to avoid things that will give a positive reading.
4. How to sober up fast before driving?
There are many myths that surround the idea of sobering up quickly such as showering, drinking a lot of coffee, or drinking caffeine. While these things can fight the drowsy effects of alcohol consumption, they will not reduce the level of alcohol in someone’s system. The only thing that can get rid of alcohol levels in the body is the body’s metabolic process, and that will take time.
Can you beat a breathalyzer?
There is multitude of common myths about tricking an ignition interlock device. However, you cannot beat a breathalyzer test, or bypass a breathalyzer device without being reported. The most common tip to beath a breathalyzer is to use mouthwash or a breath mint. However most mouthwashes or mints result in testing positive for a higher level of BrAC as they contain alcohol among their ingredients. Learn more about myths concerning breathalyzers and breath alcohol levels in our blog "Debunking Common Myths about Lowering BAC."
Myths About Breathalyzer Blow Patterns
Additionally, there are myths about blowing slower or faster to hyperventilate in the device. Doing this won’t work to trick the ignition interlock device. Devices have computers that need a certain air pressure for a certain period of time, if those minimums aren’t met, the device will simply request a breath test until the user is breathing normally. If you are using an IID while trying an abnormal breathing pattern, you may get a lockout. Learn more about what could cause a lockout.
How to complete an Intoxalock ignition interlock device breath test
Those with an ignition interlock device must pass a breath test before operating a vehicle. Follow these simple steps to perform a breath test on an Intoxalock ignition interlock device:
- Press the button on the handheld unit
- Wait until the LED displays “Blow” to push a consistent breath of air into the device
- Breathe into the breathalyzer
- Inhale through the device when prompted
- Breathe into the device for the final time when prompted to complete the test
Get step by step guidance, tips and tricks on how to use an ignition interlock device
What happens if you fail your first breath sample?
If you are required to take a retest on your car breathalyzer because the first sample detected alcohol or due to inadequate breaths, the ignition interlock device will alert you with a loud beep and a message will be displayed on the LED screen. You will submit a second sample for testing.
Learn more about what can happen if you fail and common device problems
What happens if alcohol is detected during a random retest?
After your car is started, your device will start a countdown for a retest. This is called a random retest. The device will issue a retest at periodic intervals of time to see if someone is drinking while driving, or to make sure that another person did not submit the blow to start the car for a driver. (Many states require camera IIDs, so drivers attempting to trick the breathalyzer are detected by their monitoring service and found out of compliance.)
If alcohol is detected during a retest, the ignition interlock device will not stop your car while you are driving. Instead, it will give you a signal that you need to stop your vehicle and you will have time to pull off of the road safely and park your vehicle. All samples are reported to state monitoring authorities regardless of the level detected. Learn more about failed ignition interlock samples and state reporting here.
We're Here to Help!
If you need an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, give us a call at (844) 793-6518. A state representative can walk you through the requirements in your state and will make sure you have everything you need for an appointment at an installation location near you.