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When a driver is arrested on suspicion of DUI in California, he or she will be given the option of taking either the breath or blood test. The blood test is generally considered to be the more accurate form of testing, however this test involves an invasive blood draw and many people prefer simply to provide a breath sample. Police stations keep Breathalyzer machines on the premises that a suspect would be asked to blow into. Typically, the suspect will be asked to provide two breath samples. Immediately after blowing into the Breathalyzer, the device will indicate what the suspect’s blood alcohol content is, usually to three decimal points. If the suspect has a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, he or she will subsequently be charged with driving under the influence and the breath test results will be used as evidence of the defendant’s level of intoxication.
It is important to remember that there are two different types of Breathalyzer tests that a driver may be asked to take. During the DUI investigation, the driver may be asked by the police officer to provide a breath sample on the officer’s portable Preliminary Alcohol Screening (“PAS”) device. Once arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, the driver would be given the option of testing on the Breathalyzer device typically kept at the station.
The PAS device is generally considered to be not as reliable as the stationary Breathalyzer machine. This is because it can be affected by changes in temperature and how the device is handled, among many other factors. In California, the PAS test is not mandatory for most adult drivers. Drivers who are under the age of 21 and those who are already on DUI probation are required to provide a breath sample on a PAS device when requested by an officer.
The stationary Breathalyzer device that is typically stored at the police station is considered to be more accurate than the PAS device, however it is still subject to error. A number of different factors can affect the results of the Breathalyzer test. There are certain substances and products that contain alcohol, such as mouthwash and some medications. These may provide false positives or unusually high BAC results. Because of this, a person is usually observed by an officer for several minutes to ensure that he or she does not burp, vomit, eat or drink anything that could impact the results of the Breathalyzer test.
Additionally, if the Breathalyzer machine is not properly calibrated, the resulting BAC levels may be inaccurate. All Breathalyzer devices are required by law to undergo regular maintenance and calibration. Records of these services must be kept and can be requested by the defendant in a DUI case. If the maintenance and calibration records show an issue with the underlying device, there may be grounds to challenge the accuracy of the BAC test results.
The Breathalyzer requires the test taker to breathe hard into the machine in order for it to work. There may be medical conditions that prevent the test taker from being able to provide an adequate breath sample. It is important to remember that when a DUI suspect is unable to provide a suitable sample and further declines a blood test, he or she will usually be charged with DUI refusal.