When a police officer suspects someone of driving under the influence, they will likely request a chemical test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content. One common test involves analyzing a sample of the driver’s breath. Police officers can use either a portable or stationary device for this purpose. Before administering the test, they will also provide the driver with a DL – 26 form, also known as the “O’Connell warning,” which serves as an implied consent statement. It is crucial to note that these devices have their share of issues. However, if a person agrees to the test and their blood alcohol content measures at 0.08 or higher, they will be charged with DUI. Mistakes made by device operators and technical problems can sometimes result in the dismissal of drunk driving charges.
Pennsylvania Breath Tests and How They Work
Let’s explore how breath tests work in Pennsylvania. 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 Intoxilyzer 500, AlcoCheck, and BACmaster. The suspected driver is asked to blow into the portable device, and the results may be used as probable cause for further testing. While the portable breath test displays results on an LCD screen and does not provide printouts, the driver has the right to refuse this test, and its results are not admissible 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. Approved machines for use in Pennsylvania include Alco test, DataMaster, and Breathalyzer models.
Errors in Breath Test Machines
Breath test machines relied upon for analyzing blood alcohol content, are generally considered accurate. However, various issues can result in false positive results. Explore the following common problems encountered:
- Software glitches or bugs
- Environmental factors
- Electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radiofrequency interference (RFI)
- Overestimation of BAC due to assumed blood breath partition ratio
- Improper maintenance
- Inclusion of non-ethyl alcohol substances in test results
Breath Test Operator Mistakes
Furthermore, the accuracy of breath test devices heavily relies on the expertise of the test operators. Errors or oversights during the process may lead to the dismissal of DUI cases, as the blood alcohol content cannot be considered as evidence. Familiarize yourself with potential mistakes made by officials, including police officers, during breath tests:
- Breath test administered by a non-certified police officer
- Test conducted during the peak absorption period
- Significant variation in BAC samples
- Failure to collect breath samples within the required time frame
- Neglecting to conduct the mandatory observation period
- Inadequate calibration of the breath test machine
Breath Test Machines in DUI Cases
In DUI cases across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, three machines are utilized to assess an individual’s breath for potential alcohol impairment: the Intoxilyzer 8000, the DataMaster, and the Intoxilyzer 5000. It is crucial for Washington PA criminal attorneys handling Driving Under the Influence cases to have a comprehensive understanding of each machine. Each brand and model operates differently and has unique programming. Attorneys must possess the ability to scrutinize law enforcement officers, state troopers, and other machine operators regarding their methods and qualifications to mount successful defenses for their clients.
When defending clients against breath test-based DUI charges, proficient Washington PA DUI attorneys analyze two main aspects. Firstly, they examine the calibration of the breath test machine used. Questions arise regarding the completion date of the calibration, the person responsible for its calibration, and their training to fulfill that role. Accuracy of the machine calibration is of utmost importance.
Secondly, an integral consideration is the machine operator. Are they currently licensed or has their license expired? Have they remained up-to-date with ongoing training on machine usage and advancements? Did they conduct the test on the individual correctly? This aspect holds significant weight when building a defense. Operator error greatly increases the chances of a case being dismissed.
Fortunately for DUI defendants, many breath test machines used in Pennsylvania have proven to be defective. A State Supreme Court ruling a few years ago rendered them ineffective. Hence, it is relatively feasible to have Blood Alcohol Concentration readings from the machine suppressed or dismissed entirely when subjected to a breath test. Nevertheless, it is more common for blood tests to be utilized instead of breath tests.
Are you facing charges for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol? Have you taken a breath test and now need an experienced Washington DUI attorney who understands breath test machines inside out? Look no further. The Logue Criminal Defense team is here to provide the expertise and knowledge you need to fight your charges.
At Logue Law Group, we proudly serve Washington, PA, West Virginia, and Ohio. Take advantage of our free initial consultation by reaching out today: (844) PITT-DUI or (412) 389-0805. You can also contact us online.
Don’t delay! Driving Under the Influence charges come with serious consequences, and unreliable machines and improperly trained operators can jeopardize your freedom. The longer you wait to enlist legal representation, the tougher 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 to get your life back on track. Call now and take the first step!
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