Breath Tests

When a police officer suspects someone of driving under the influence (DUI), they often request a chemical test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). This is typically done by analyzing the driver’s breath using either a portable or stationary device. Before administering the test, the officer will provide the driver with a DL – 26 form, also known as the “O’Connell warning,” which serves as an implied consent statement. However, it is important to note that these devices are not infallible. Mistakes made by the device operators or technical problems can sometimes result in the dismissal of DUI charges. Nonetheless, if a person agrees to the test and their BAC measures at 0.08 or higher, they will be charged with DUI.

Pennsylvania Breath tests and How they Work

Let’s now explore how breath tests work in Pennsylvania, where generally two types of breath tests are used:

Portable or preliminary breath tests (PBT): These tests are conducted roadside by law enforcement officers on suspected drunk drivers. Commonly used devices include the Intoxilyzer 500, AlcoCheck, and BACmaster. The suspected driver is asked to blow into the portable device, and while the results may be used as probable cause for further testing, they are not admissible as evidence in court.

Evidential or stationary breath tests (EBT): Stationary breath tests are conducted using larger machines located at police stations. Refusing to take this test can lead to severe penalties. PennDOT regulations require multiple breath samples to ensure reliability. The results of these tests are printed out and can be used as evidence in court. Some approved machines for use in Pennsylvania include Alco test, DataMaster, and Breathalyzer models.

Errors in Breath Test Machines

Breath test machines play a crucial role in analyzing blood alcohol content, but their reliability is not absolute. As observers, we need to be aware of the common issues that can lead to false positive results. Let’s explore some of the significant problems encountered:

  • Software glitches or bugs: Despite their overall accuracy, breath test machines can be prone to technical malfunctions, impacting their precision.
  • Environmental factors: Factors such as temperature, humidity, or the presence of certain substances can affect the accuracy of breath test results.
  • Electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radiofrequency interference (RFI): External electromagnetic signals can interfere with the functioning of breath test machines, leading to erroneous readings.
  • Overestimation of BAC due to assumed blood breath partition ratio: The assumption of a fixed blood breath partition ratio can sometimes lead to overestimation of blood alcohol content.
  • Improper maintenance: Neglecting routine maintenance can compromise the accuracy and reliability of breath test machines.
  • Inclusion of non-ethyl alcohol substances in test results: The presence of certain substances in a person’s breath can influence the test results, potentially leading to false positives.

Breath Test Operator Mistakes

While breath test machines are a vital tool, their accuracy hinges on the expertise of the test operators. Errors or oversights during the testing process can render the blood alcohol content inadmissible as evidence. It’s essential to be aware of potential mistakes made by officials, including police officers:

  • Breath test administered by a non-certified police officer: Test results obtained by individuals lacking proper certification may not hold up in court.
  • Test conducted during the peak absorption period: Conducting the test during this specific period may lead to inaccurate readings.
  • Significant variation in BAC samples: Inconsistencies in collected samples can call into question the reliability of the test results.
  • Failure to collect breath samples within the required time frame: Timeliness is essential when collecting breath samples, as delays can affect their accuracy.
  • Neglecting to conduct the mandatory observation period: Properly observing an individual before the test ensures the accuracy and validity of the results.
  • Inadequate calibration of the breath test machine: Regular calibration is critical to maintain the accuracy of the machine and ensure reliable results.

Breath Test Machines in DUI Cases

In DUI cases across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, three breath test machines are commonly used: the Intoxilyzer 8000, the DataMaster, and the Intoxilyzer 5000. It is crucial for Butler PA criminal attorneys, dealing with Driving Under the Influence cases, to have comprehensive knowledge of these machines. Each brand and model operates differently, and understanding their unique programming allows attorneys to effectively challenge law enforcement officers, state troopers, and other machine operators. By doing so, they can mount successful defenses for their clients.

Proficient Butler PA DUI attorneys utilize a two-fold approach to defend clients against breath test-based DUI charges. Firstly, they meticulously analyze the calibration of the breath test machine. Critical questions surface regarding the calibration’s completion date, the responsible personnel, and their training to fulfill this role. The accuracy of machine calibration stands as the utmost priority.

Secondly, the focus shifts to the machine operator. Is their license current or expired? Have they stayed updated with continuous training on machine usage and advancements? Did they correctly administer the test to the individual? This factor holds substantial weight when constructing a defense. Operator error significantly heightens the likelihood of case dismissal.

What offers solace to DUI defendants is the prevalence of defective breath test machines employed in Pennsylvania. A State Supreme Court ruling a few years back rendered these machines ineffective. Consequently, asserting that Blood Alcohol Concentration readings provided by the machine should be suppressed or entirely dismissed when obtained through a breath test is relatively feasible. Nevertheless, blood tests are more frequently employed over breath tests.

Are you currently facing charges for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol? Have you undergone a breath test and now require the expertise of a seasoned Butler PA DUI attorney who possesses comprehensive understanding of breath test machines? Look no further. The Logue Criminal Defense team is here to offer the knowledge and experience necessary to combat your charges.

At Logue Law Group, we take pride in serving Butler, PA, West Virginia, and Ohio. Avail yourself of our complimentary initial consultation by reaching out today: (844) PITT-DUI or (412) 389-0805. You can also contact us online.

Don’t wait! Driving Under the Influence charges carry serious consequences, and unreliable machines and inadequately trained operators can jeopardize your freedom. The longer you delay in securing legal representation, the more challenging it becomes to dismiss or reduce your charges. With Sean Logue and his associates at Logue Law Group, you’ll have a dedicated team working relentlessly to get your life back on track. Call now and take the first step!

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