Recently, there was an article about how a man from Ontario tried to beat a breathalyzer test by putting a penny in his mouth. Click here to read the full article. The officer had already made a demand for a sample of his breath at the roadside when he noticed the driver put something in his mouth. The officer asked the driver about this and he stuck out his tongue to show a penny on it. The officer asked him to take it out of his mouth but he instead decided to swallow it. He ended up getting charged with both impaired driving and obstructing a peace officer by not following the instruction to remove the penny.
The myth that putting a penny in your mouth has been around for a while. In fact, it was way back in 2003 that Discover Channel's Mythbusters tested several beat the breathalyzer myths on Episode 6 - Lightning Strikes / Tongue Piercings. You can view the episode guide for more details on Wikipedia. Needless to say, putting pennies, mints, a battery, eating onions, hyperventilating, or using mouthwash DO NOT WORK to beat the breathalyzer. Furthermore, if you try and do something to prevent the officer from doing his or her job, you may be charged with obstructing justice.
One British Columbia based law firm tried their best to beat the breathalyzer as well. They thought hyperventilating helped a bit with a roadside breath sample. You can read about their very unofficial testing here. But it seems to me that the officer would notice you hyperventilating just prior to providing a sample and that could result in obstruction charges.
So, what is the best way to beat a breathalyzer test? Do not consume alcohol before driving a motor vehicle. Some people think it is better to simply not blow or provide a sample, but then you will be charged with another criminal offence for refusal which carries the same penalties for blowing over the legal limit. The bigger problem is you could be convicted of both drive impaired and a refusal whereas you cannot be convicted of both a drive impaired and a drive over the limit. Plus, if you are charged with a refusal in Manitoba, your vehicle will be impounded for a longer period of time. The best thing to do if you are pulled over for a DUI is to comply with any demands the officer makes and then to exercise your right to speak to a lawyer to seek appropriate legal advice.
Everyone responds differently to alcohol and even though you may feel fine and be acting normally, you may still blow over the legal limit. The financial costs for a drunk driving related conviction in Canada are significant and you would also lose your licence for a year. The smart thing to do is always pre-arrange a ride, call a cab, or spend the night. For some people, one drink on an empty stomach could put them over the limit. A $50 cab ride is cheaper than the lowest fine you could ever receive for a DUI, which is $1000.
Having said all that, just because you blew over the legal limit does not mean that you have to plead guilty. In some cases, a guilty plea may be the right decision. In others, there may be issues for a judge to rule on during a trial that would determine if you're found guilty or acquitted. It is always a smart idea to get a legal opinion about what to do in your case.
About the author
Michael Dyck is a partner at Rees & Dyck Criminal Defence. He represents clients primarily from Winnipeg, Steinbach, and rural Manitoba. He has extensive experience helping people charged with criminal offences and focuses on building legal strategy with clients. To read more of his articles, please visit his partner's website TomRees.ca.