Lawyer Tom Anelli, one of the nation's foremost experts on DWI defenses and breathalyzers
, has a free piece of legal advice: If you've been pulled over and may have had too much to drink, don't start sucking on a penny.
"It will have no effect on the breath's alcohol level," he told us, scoffing at the well-circulated myth. "The breathalyzer is trained to read alcohol vapor in a person's breath. So sucking on a penny or any other coin doesn't do anything to affect the reading."
Hyperventilating or any other type of breathing tricks also won't help you beat a DWI rap, according to Anelli, because doing so won't "exhaust your breath of alcohol."
Yet Anelli, who defends folks charged with drunk driving all over New York state, still finds a way to get his client's charges either dismissed or reduced 95 percent of the time.
While we can't condone driving under the influence, we were interested to hear some of the random and surprising things that Anelli has used as part of a winning DWI defense. Read on to check them out.
You Have GERD
Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
, is a condition in which acid, bile and partially digested food in the stomach backs up into the esophagus. The symptoms of GERD are heartburn, sore throat, coughing and difficulty swallowing. It's a fairly unpleasant affliction, but it can also get you out of DWI charge:
"Toxicologists and pharmacologist will testify that GERD is intensified by stress." Anelli told us. "Obviously being given a breathalyzer is a stressful situation, making it more likely for mouth-alcohol contamination to occur."
It's a great defense," he continued. "I've used it in cases when someone has blown a 3.6."
You Have a Tongue Ring
"The mouth should be free of foreign substances, if not they could trap alcohol, leading to mouth-alcohol contamination," Anelli explained. "For example, certain dental working could trap a piece of bread, which would than act as sponge, sucking in alcohol and affecting the reading."
Anelli confirmed that this could also be true of a tongue ring. So, when you see a teenager with a piece of metal stuck inside his mouth, don't think of it as a highly uncreative act of rebellion. Instead, think of it as a future DWI defense.
You Use Breath Strips
While many experts list the mouthwash DWI defense as a myth, Anelli disagrees.
"Listerine breath strips have an amount of alcohol in them, so if you put one in your mouth right before the test -- and it would have to be right before the test -- it could influence the breathalyzer."
"It's a tough argument," Anelli conceded. "But we've used it in court and gotten cases dismissed"
You Work With Paint
Acetone and toluene are chemicals that are present in paints, paint thinners and certain lacquers, adhesives and rubbers. They also register at some level as ethanol -- which is the alcohol people drink -- on older breathalyzers.
"People who work with paint all day -- selling paint cans or painting cars -- could have high levels of the chemicals acetone and toluene," Anelli told us. "And what could happen is someone might not have any ethanol in them, but the machine would still register them as being drunk because they work with substances that contain acetone and toluene."
Of course, just because you work with paint -- or have GERD, a tongue ring or breath strips -- it doesn't mean you have a license to drink and still get behind the wheel. Driving drunk is just plain dumb, so keep in mind that the absolute best way to beat a breathalyzer is to make sure that there isn't any alcohol in your system in the first place.