Peter Blair | October 3, 2022 | DUI
If you’re pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in California, you may be required to take a breath test by the police to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Legally, intoxication refers to the concentration of alcohol in your blood or BAC. Often, a police officer may require you to take a test if they smell alcohol on your breath.
Many of our clients may believe they were unfairly detained because they hadn’t been drinking or had stopped drinking hours before being pulled over. So how long does alcohol remain detectable on your breath?
How Long Can You Smell Alcohol on Someone’s Breath After They Stop Drinking?
The aroma of alcohol can stay on your breath for up to 12 hours after your last drink. Even though you may eat a meal, brush your teeth, or even sleep for a few hours, you may still have alcohol on your breath.
Take this common example. You go out and have a late night at the club, Uber home and go to sleep, then wake up early in the morning and head to work. Your body may have metabolized enough of the alcohol so that your BAC is zero, but you may still smell like alcohol.
You don’t realize this and drive to work. Perhaps you accidentally swerve into the other lane and get pulled over. The officer may smell last night’s alcohol and require you to take a breath test. You may even be arrested for drunk driving!
In this case, you need an experienced DUI attorney who can defend your rights and help you beat the charges.
How Do You Get Rid of the Alcohol Smell on Your Breath?
Despite all the urban myths about drinking coffee, gargling mouthwash (or worse yet, cologne!), or chewing gum, there isn’t a magic bullet for getting the smell of alcohol off your breath. Unfortunately, the only real cure for alcohol on your breath is time.
Your body, mostly your liver, processes alcohol at a rate of 0.015 grams per hour, about the equivalent of one drink. Your liver and kidneys can only metabolize alcohol so fast, and even if your liver has processed the alcohol from your blood, the smell on your breath is usually the last physical trace of a night of drinking.
If you are concerned that alcohol on your breath will lead to suspicion of drunk driving, there are a few options:
- Don’t drive until your BAC is zero; wait at least one hour for every drink you had
- Wait to shower until after the alcohol is completely metabolized
- Brush thoroughly and floss, but avoid alcohol-based mouthwash
- Chewing gum can help with saliva production, which can help eradicate alcohol aromas
Your best ally for alcohol-free breath is always time.
What Should You Do If the Police Smell Alcohol on Your Breath and Ask You to Take a Breathalyzer?
As long as you’re confident that it’s been long enough since your last drink that your BAC is below the legal limit, you should have no problem taking the test. A breath test doesn’t test the scent of alcohol on your breath but rather the alcohol content in your blood, measured from your breath and saliva.
When you’re granted a driver’s license in California, you automatically give implied consent to a breath test if you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. Refusal to do so is considered to be a crime.
But even if you say no, you may avoid being convicted of a DUI if you:
- Remain silent, giving only your name and address
- Agree to the breath test but request an independent blood test
- Ask for your lawyer immediately after taking the breath test
An attorney that understands California DUI laws can help ensure you don’t say anything that could incriminate you and protect your rights even if you’ve been arrested for DUI.