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How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Your Breath? GA Breathalyzer

By: William C. Head, Board Certified Georgia DUI Attorney Named Best Atlanta DUI Lawyer 2017

Ga DUI Lawyer Breathalyzer

Under a new ruling by the United States Supreme Court, a citizen under arrest for DWI or DUI alcohol can be requested to submit to a state breath alcohol (breathalyzer) test to check BAC amounts, or else risk harsh driver’s license consequences. Plus, in about a dozen states, state DUI laws make refusing to submit to breath tests a CRIME and call for a person with a DUI refusal (after being convicted) to be put in jail or prison and fined for the “refusal” to submit, or BOTH.

On June 23, 2016, the nation’s highest court determined that a breath alcohol test is NOT invasive and is a legal search incident to a lawful arrest for driving under the influence, under the 4th Amendment. This ruling, in Birchfield v. North Dakota, clarified a good bit of contradictory and confusing prior rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

An earlier decision, Schmerber, seemed to put the legal emphasis on metabolization of alcohol and how it is dissipated from the driver’s body over time.

The new ruling does not bode well for people who drink and cannot get rid of alcohol breath for a long time after alcohol is consumed. The detectable odor of ethanol (drinking alcohol) or its metabolites (burn-off products) like acetaldehyde stays on the drinker’s breath for as much as 12 plus hours, and (therefore) many people get arrested even after waiting an hour or more following their last drink.

Some are arrested the next morning, on the way to work. So, the smell of alcohol, as circumstantial evidence of recent consumption, can lead to a drunk driving arrest on very little evidence of impairment in many alcohol-based DUI cases.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Your Breath?

A person can drink any type of alcoholic beverage, whether scotch whiskey, beer, or even grain alcohol, and his or her breath smells like alcohol for many hours. A scientific explanation for the lingering “alcohol on breath” problem is fairly simple. First, even though alcohol can be consumed quickly, it cannot be “burned off” (eliminated) fast. The rate of burn-off is about 0.015 per hour.

So, for a person who reached a 0.18 breath alcohol content, this would require about 12 full hours to metabolize. Even then, the smell of alcohol breath byproducts still smells like alcohol on your breath, and this may last another couple of hours.

How Do I Get Rid of Alcohol Breath?

No magic way exists for how to rid alcohol from your breath. Sufficient time must pass for the liver to process all that poison (yes, alcohol is a poison) and convert the poison into less toxic byproducts. One of these byproducts, acetaldehyde, smells eerily close to alcohol breath and a police officer may mistakenly accuse you of being intoxicated from alcohol when your breath alcohol content has reached zero.

Many myths exist about how to hide alcohol breath. Since 60% of all Americans drink regularly, and annual DUI arrests in the USA have averaged over 1.6 million for the past 25 years, it is apparent that the “tricks” do not work very well.

The steps that have a real chance to succeed are:

  1. Wait until your BAC is zero. If you need to look at an easy-to-follow BAC calculator, this chart is quick and easy to understand.
  2. Take a shower AFTER all alcohol has left your body. If you shower too soon, your sweat will ooze out the odor of alcohol, to some extent.
  3. Floss and brush your teeth thoroughly. Getting rid of alcohol breath entails scrubbing it out from any particles of food that may have gotten saturated with your alcoholic beverage.
  4. Don’t use an alcohol-based mouthwash. This can reintroduce alcohol breath.
  5. Chew some gum to increase saliva flow and freshen your breath. This may help mask any lingering odors from acetaldehyde.

What If I Follow These Steps, But Am Asked to Take a Breath Alcohol Test?

If you have properly calculated your BAC levels by using a reliable BAC chart, you should be fine to “blow”. As stated in the opening part of this article, NOT saying “yes” to the state test can cost you the ability to drive—at a minimum— or possibly put you behind bars—OR BOTH. These three rules will help you have your best chance to not get convicted of DWI-DUI:

  1. Remain silent. Don’t talk at all. The police officer is only entitled to know your name and address.
  2. When agreeing to take the breathalyzer test, advise the officer of your desire to get an independent blood alcohol test after the state’s test. It should be allowed, but you have to pay for it, so be prepared.
  3. Once you have taken the officer’s breath alcohol test, explain that you want an attorney present and that no questions will be answered without you having an attorney with you.

It Is About Protecting Your Legal Rights and Not How to Get Alcohol Off Your Breath

People can be accused of drunk driving in situations when they have not committed any traffic violation.  In every state, a driver who is asleep in a vehicle on a highway or shoulder of the road that is part of the right-of-way will be investigated by a law enforcement officer. Police have the right to assure public safety as part of “community caretaking”. Asking if a driver is all right is part of that job.

In some states, like Georgia, police can arrest a suspected drunken driver for DUI even if he or she is on private property. Other states are not quite so willing to give police such authority, but parking lots of restaurants and other businesses are usually “fair game” for patrolling police officers.

What About DUI Checkpoints? Will the Odor of Alcohol Justify a DUI Arrest?

Another time that police MAY come in contact with a suspected DUI driver is at a DUI checkpoint. Police roadblocks are legal in about ¾ of all states, plus the District of Columbia. Therefore, an officer will ask you to roll down your window to show your driver’s license, insurance, and possibly your registration. In states that approve DUI checkpoints, this can lead to an officer claiming that you are DUI.

These 5 tips may assist you to assert all of your legal rights, to minimize being convicted of DUI:

  1. Only crack the window an inch or two, and slip the needed license and paperwork out the crack. Your door should stay locked because some officers will pull your door open.
  2. If ordered to roll the window down all the way, simply remain silent. If the officer escalates the situation, ask “Am I under arrest?”
  3. If you are threatened with forcible entry or arrest, roll down the window before the officer breaks it out. Leave your door locked unless you have been ordered out of the vehicle.
  4. If ordered out of the vehicle, say nothing and DO NOT DO field sobriety tests—NONE. Ask for a lawyer, and slowly raise your hands to show submission.
  5. If arrested, remain silent. Go back and re-read the three tips about submitting to the alcohol breath test, and demanding both an independent test and to call your attorney.

After an Arrest, Act to Protect Your Right to Drive and Other Legal Rights


Georgia DUI Lawyer Professional Excellence

Don’t settle for just any Atlanta DUI attorney. Speak to Bubba Head, the criminal defense lawyer whom those in law enforcement and people who work within the court system routinely call when their friends and family members are facing a DUI offense. He and his two laws partners Larry Kohn and Cory Yager (who have been with Mr. Head since Law School), have handled well over 10,000 Georgia DUI cases, in the last 25 years. For a FREE analysis of your criminal charges, please complete our online case evaluation form.

DUI Lawyers Alcohol Breath Test


Call 41-year veteran Atlanta DUI attorney Bubba Head or his Super Lawyer partners at the DUI law firm today and get honest answers to all your questions. Tell us everything that happened and everything you remember about your DUI arrest. The sooner you call us, the better chance we have to win your case.

Remember, you only have 30 DAYS to file a license suspension appeal or apply for an ignition interlock device, or your driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year! Talk to Bubba Head, Larry Kohn, or Cory Yager now. We are available 24 hours a day, weekends, and all major holidays. (404) 567-5515


Breathalyzer DUI Arrest

Call 41-year veteran Atlanta DUI attorney Bubba Head today and get honest answers to all your questions. Tell us everything that happened and everything you remember about your DUI arrest. The sooner you call us, the better chance we have to win your DUI case and get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Remember, you only have 30 DAYS to file a license suspension appeal or apply for an ignition interlock device, or your driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year! Talk to Bubba Head, Larry Kohn, or Cory Yager now. We are available 24 hours a day, weekends, and all major holidays. (404) 567-5515


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