Challenging the Breath Test

When a person is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, they will sometimes be asked to submit to two different breath tests. The first breath test is called a PBT or a Portable Breath Test. The results of this breath test are not admissible in court and cannot be used by the prosecutors to determine the level of a person’s impairment. The second test is a breathalyzer test at the police station.

After a person has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, they are taken back to the nearest district police station where they are booked and processed. Booking and processing mean that they are photographed and have their fingerprints taken. When they are at the police station, a person may also be asked to submit to a breath test by a machine at the police station. This second breath test would produce a blood alcohol content that is admissible in court as evidence against the defendant.

If you have taken a breath test for your DUI in DC, it is important to have your DC DUI attorney challenge the results of the breath test and whether or not it is admissible in court.

Breathalyzer Test

There are a number of regulations and procedures that police officers are required to follow in order to be able to properly administer a breathalyzer test. It requires a 20-minute observation period before administering the test and an inspection of the suspect’s mouth for any foreign objects that could throw off the results of the test. Once the officers have complied with all of the required procedures, they ask the suspect to blow into a tube twice.

There will always be two times that the police will ask a suspect to submit samples. Those two samples will be collected typically within a few minutes of each other. Prior to administering a breath test, police are required to notify the suspect of their rights and obligations under the D.C. Implied Consent Act.

Challenging a Roadside Breath Test

The reason is that portable breath tests, which are administered at the scene of an arrest, are not calibrated or checked for accuracy at the level that they need to be to be able to provide a reliable result. A portable breath test can be refused or consented to without a consequence, but only serves the functional purpose of determining whether a person has any alcohol in their system. These portable breath tests are not considered to be reliable indicators of merit.

Roadside breath tests or portable breath tests are not admissible in court. Whatever the results a roadside or portable breath test produces cannot be used as evidence against a person. The only purpose served by a roadside breath test is for the police to make a preliminary determination as to whether a person has alcohol in their system. Even this determination is not admissible in court.

Therefore, there is no need to challenge the results of a roadside breath test, because the roadside breath test has not produced any evidence that is admissible against a person at their trial.

Other Important Details

Challenging breathalyzer results can be difficult. There was a period of time in which the DC breath testing system was mismanaged, resulting in significantly inaccurate breath testing results. The inaccuracies were not discovered until several years into the breath testing system. Since then, the Washington government has taken steps to attempt to revise a reliable breath testing system.

As of now, the methodology of calibrating and checking the accuracy of the District’s breath testing machines seems to be up to standards.

Nonetheless, it can be a part of the defense strategy to check individual breath testing machines for irregularities or gaps and maintenance. Because the reliability of breath testing machines still depends on human beings checking for accuracy in a reliable way, there is still a possibility of human error in the breath testing system. It is important to have a defense lawyer who understands the methods by which breath testing machines are calibrated and the areas in which that calibration can go wrong.