Will Sucking On a Penny Beat the Breath Test?

Question: I was driving home from Atlanta on Georgia 400 when my car got stopped for weaving in Roswell. I was going home to Norcross. It was about 2:30 a.m. and I was really sleepy. I think the cop was following me since Sandy Springs when I swerved because my Apple iPhone rang. The cop said my Honda crossed over the line.

Before the cop came to my car I sucked on a penny and drank some Listerine. I heard that can get you out of a DUI arrest. The cop asked me if I had anything to drink and I said no. And I didn't do the field sobriety tests because I was wearing high heels. But I took the breathalyzer test at the Roswell jail and I got a .167. I checked on the internet and know this is over the DUI limit. But I really don't think I drank that much at the Mexican restaurant. But I only ate some nachos. I had 2 or 3 Margaritas and no beers or shots of liquor. Do you think my diabetes made me score high on that DUI breath test? I'm not a big drinker and I wasn't drunk and I don't see how I got such a high score. Somebody told my boyfriend that diabetes can cause a DUI. I can get a note from my endocrinologist from Northside Hospital to prove that I have diabetes.

Answer: Under Georgia law a reading on the Intoxilyzer (the breath test) over .08 is considered DUI per se; a lower reading on the Intoxilyzer can be charged as DUI less safe. You indicate that your reading was over twice the breath test limit. Diabetes may, conceivably, be a factor in the high reading, but recent research into the link between breath tests and diabetes has not firmly established that having diabetes will raise the blood alcohol reading to that extent. We do think that more research is needed.

We have heard of other people who, prior to a stop by the police, will suck on a penny or gargle with Listerine in an attempt to mask the fact that they have been drinking. We have studied both attempts to "fool" DUI breath tests. Unfortunately, neither strategy works well to thwart the Intoxilyzer machine. In fact, using Listerine (or any other mouthwash containing alcohol) can actually cause an individual to register a higher number on the breath test.

Interestingly, you wrote that you drank the Listerine, not that you merely gargled with it. Since Listerine and similar mouthwash products contain alcohol, if you drank it that could certainly increase your blood alcohol content. Sucking on a penny has no discernible impact on a breath test, either positive or negative. Of course, observing an automobile driver sucking on a penny would likely raise the police officer's suspicion that a motorist is trying to hide something, or, at the very least, engaging in rather odd behavior warranting further investigation.

Thank you for your question. We try to answer as many questions as possible about DUI. The identity of anyone who asks a question will not be disclosed.

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