Don't Hold Your Breath, It Could Put You Over the Legal Limit

Posted On August 01, 2023 Charles Ramsay

Did you know that the way you breathe can affect the results of your breath alcohol test? 

You read that right. 

By changing how you breathe, you can radically affect the results of a breath alcohol test. 

Breathing patterns are just one of the many problems with breath alcohol testing. But there are a number of others. I’ve written about problems such as GERD, breath temperature, interfering substances, bias against smaller lungs, source code, and uncertainty.

The fact is, breath testing is the least accurate way to measure alcohol in one’s body. On top of that, the MN BCA has some serious problems that they need to fix. It’s so bad that I’ve advocated for shutting the breath lab down until the problems get fixed.

How your breathing affects a breath test

Here are the facts on breathing patterns and breath alcohol testing:

  1. If you take deep breaths before a breath alcohol test, you’ll increase your breath alcohol by 15%. 
  2. If you take shallow breaths, you’ll decrease your breath alcohol by 10%. 

This effect has been shown in multiple studies. You can see the effects for yourself in the graph below.

(Image Credit: Gullberg RG. Breath alcohol analysis in one subject with gastroesophageal reflux disease. J Forensic Sci 2001; 46: 1498–1503.)

We all know that we breathe differently when we are in a high-stress situation. It’s common knowledge that deep breathing helps you relax and calm anxiety. Some therapists even teach breathing deeply as a technique to remain calm.

Every year, 20,000 breath tests are run on Minnesotans. How many of those tests have been pushed over the legal limit because someone tries to stay calm by taking deep breaths? Probably more than the state would like to admit.

The same can’t be said for a blood test. If you breathe deeply, it will not affect the test. If you flex your arm, it won’t affect the test. Nothing you do during a blood draw will affect your test. This is one of the many reasons why blood is more accurate than breath alcohol testing.

What can be done?

Some of you reading this may have been affected by taking deep breaths before your breath alcohol test. If your life has been negatively affected by a breath alcohol test, call Ramsay Law. We’ll examine your case and leave no stone unturned. 

At Ramsay Law, we work hard to understand the science behind alcohol testing. Call us to examine your case. 

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Daniel Koewler