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When a driver is lawfully arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, he or she will typically be given the option of taking either a breath test on a Breathalyzer device or a blood test. People often want to know what test they should select when given the choice. Both tests have advantages and disadvantages and there are a number of factors that a driver may want to consider before deciding what type of chemical test to take.
It is important to remember that even though the driver is given a choice of complying with chemical testing; failure to take either the breath or blood test will be considered a refusal. In these cases, the driver will still be charged with driving under the influence in addition to a refusal allegation which carries mandatory jail time upon conviction. In addition, the Department of Motor Vehicles will issue a one year driver’s license suspension for those who refuse testing. The driver would be ineligible for a restricted license during the suspension period on a refusal.
Officers often encourage drivers to take the Breathalyzer test that is kept at the police station. This is not the same as the Preliminary Alcohol Sensor (“PAS”) test that is offered to drivers during the investigation phase of a DUI stop. This portable device is not considered an official breath test and is optional for most drivers. The only drivers who are required to take a PAS test are drivers who are under the age of 21 and those who are already on probation for a DUI offense. Drivers who agree to take a PAS test during the DUI investigation, but who later refuse to take a breath test (as well as a blood test) will be considered to have refused testing. It is important to remember that complying with the PAS test does not satisfy the chemical testing requirement.
Officers will encourage the breath test because it can be done at the police station and, unlike the blood test, does not require having to take the defendant to an offsite location, such as a hospital, in order to conduct the testing. Also the Breathalyzer will produce immediate results, unlike the blood test which takes weeks. There may be cases where a driver may prefer a breath test. If he or she had just consumed alcohol and has a rising blood alcohol, it may be a good idea to test on the Breathalyzer instead of the blood test. This is because the extra time it takes to prepare a blood test may result in the driver’s BAC increasing over the 0.08 percent threshold. In addition, drivers who have consumed drugs may also want to take a breath test as the Breathalyzer can only measure for alcohol, and not drugs. When the driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs, the police can require that the driver take a blood test.
A driver may prefer a blood test when it has been a long time since he or she last consumed alcohol. The extra time may result in a BAC decrease as alcohol is eliminated from the driver’s blood.