Breath Alcohol FAQ

Alcohol and Breath

  • Are breath tests accurate?

  • Yes, breath tests are very accurate. The instrumentation is held to a standard of 3% or 0.003 g/210 L of vapor (whichever is greater) for accuracy, and 0.003 g/210 L of vapor for precision.
  • What is the purpose of the 20 minute observation?

  • To allow any residual mouth alcohol to be absorbed.
  • Can dentures affect a breath test? What about tongue rings?

  • Dentures and tongue rings do not affect the breath test result as long as a 20 minute observation is performed.
  • Can a penny under the tongue influence the reading?

  • This belief is incorrect. A penny under the tongue does not contribute to or alter the breath reading.
  • If a person has asthma, can they provide a breath sample?

  • Yes, people with asthma can typically provide breath samples.
  • If someone has a dose of cough medicine, will it contribute to the reading?

  • Following the normal dosing instructions, cough medicine will not produce a blood alcohol reading.
  • How long does it take to eliminate alcohol?

  • Average elimination rates range from 0.010 to 0.020 g/210L per hour.  For example, an individual with a 0.10 Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) would reach a 0.00 BAC in 5 to 10 hours.
  • Will coffee, cold showers and exercise help "sober up" someone who has been drinking?

  • Only the passage of time will "sober up" an individual.
  • How do I contact the Breath Alcohol Section?

  • The Breath Alcohol Section can be reached at (804) 786-6971 or by FAX at (804) 786-6139.

Breath Alcohol Class Questions

  • Where are Breath Alcohol Initial Operator classes conducted?

  • At the BioTech 8 building in Richmond. The building is located at 737 N. 5th Street (directly across the street from the Central Laboratory). The classroom is on the 3rd floor.  Directions are located on the Breath Alcohol Training page.
  • Who notifies operators about Retraining dates?

  • The Breath Alcohol Section will notify the law enforcement agency approximately eight weeks prior to the class. Retraining classes are conducted in the following areas: Richmond, Manassas, Tidewater, Roanoke, Blackstone and Bristol.
  • What happens if an operator misses a retraining class and his license expires?

  • Once an operator's license expires, the operator cannot run a test.  The instruments will not accept an expired license. An operator has a one-year period to take a Retraining class. If this year expires without the operator successfully completing Retraining requirements, the operator must attend another Basic (Initial) Operator's class. Any operator who misses a scheduled class should contact the Breath Alcohol Section.
  • Are there any costs associated with the training?

  • There is no fee for the class.  Law enforcement agencies are responsible for covering student expenses.  DFS may have grant funds available, however, to assist with the cost of student lodging.  Please contact the Breath Alcohol Section for details.

Information Request

  • How do I request information from the Breath Alcohol Section?

  • For authenticated records, requests must be submitted in writing, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Further guidance on written FOIA requests can be found here. A searchable database for electronic records is also available; however, the Department cannot authenticate electronic records, once printed, as being unaltered, complete, and/or accurate.  Click here to access the Breath Alcohol Online Instrument Records page.