Driving under the influence (DUI) remains one of the most prevalent causes of road accidents globally. Among the most critical elements of a DUI case are the breath and blood tests. These tests measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to determine if a driver is unlawfully operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What is a DUI?
A DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence.” It generally refers to the act of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, including recreational drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications that affect one’s ability to drive safely.
Laws and penalties for DUIs vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but they usually include fines, license suspensions, mandatory alcohol or drug education programs, and sometimes jail time, especially for repeat offenders or if there was an injury or fatality involved.
It’s important to note that the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in many places is 0.08% for adult drivers, but even small amounts of alcohol can affect one’s driving ability and increase the risk of an accident. Some jurisdictions also have zero-tolerance laws for drivers under the age of 21, meaning that any detectable amount of alcohol can lead to a DUI charge.
In addition to alcohol, other substances can also lead to DUI or similar charges. For example, in many places, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs, even if they are prescribed by a doctor or legally used for recreational purposes.
Always consult local laws and never drive if you are under the influence or feel impaired in any way.
DUI testing typically refers to the various methods law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When alcohol is consumed, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream, affecting cognitive and motor skills. BAC is the amount of alcohol present in the blood.
Here’s a breakdown of common DUI testing methods:
Upon a DUI stop, law enforcement often administers a breathalyzer test. Breathalyzers measure breath alcohol by estimating BAC from a breath sample. These tests are beneficial due to their non-invasive nature. However, they’re not without flaws. Factors like calibration, residual alcohol in the mouth, or certain medical conditions can affect the breathalyzer’s test result.
- Quick results.
- Can be affected by external factors like residual mouth alcohol or the use of certain mouthwashes.
- Requires periodic calibration for accuracy.
In contrast to the quick breathalyzer, a DUI blood test requires a blood draw to obtain a blood sample. This sample is then sent to a lab to determine the blood alcohol level. The results of the blood test are generally more accurate than breath tests. However, the process of drawing blood can be more invasive and time-consuming.
Furthermore, the time of the blood draw, and any delay in testing can affect blood test results. Although law enforcement officers need a solid reason/warrant to request a blood draw.
- Highly accurate.
- Can detect various substances, not just alcohol.
- Requires more time to get results.
- The proper handling and storage of samples are crucial.
- Need warrant or probable cause to draw blood.
Legal Implications of Refusing a Test
Implied consent law is fundamental in DUI cases. This law states that by driving a vehicle, you’ve implicitly agreed to submit to chemical testing if stopped on suspicion of DUI. Refuse to take a breath or blood test, you could face penalties.
A crucial aspect that every experienced criminal justice attorney understands is the Fourth Amendment. A blood draw without first getting a warrant could violate an individual’s rights. However, refusing to take a breath test often comes with immediate legal consequences.
This can include the automatic suspension of a driver’s license, fines, and mandatory enrollment in DUI education programs. In some areas, refusal can be used as evidence against the driver in court.
How to Challenge The Results in Your DUI Case
Challenging the results of a breath or blood test is a common defense strategy in DUI cases.
Some grounds for challenge include:
- Device Calibration: Breath-testing devices need regular calibration. If the device isn’t properly calibrated, results can be deemed unreliable.
- Proper Procedure: Ensuring the administering officer followed correct procedures during the test.
- Sample Handling: In blood tests, the chain of custody and how the sample was handled, stored, and analyzed can be grounds for contesting the results.
Defending Against DUI charges
Being charged with a DUI can be daunting. However, every DUI case isn’t clear-cut, and the type of test administered matters. An experienced DUI attorney knows that factors like inaccurate equipment, improper blood sample handling, and certain medical conditions can skew test results.
Refusing to submit to a blood or breath test can be used against you in court. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can argue whether the refusal was legally justified or if the test was administered correctly. A robust defense strategy is crucial. Here are some common defenses.
- Improper Stop: Arguing that the officer had no valid reason for the initial traffic stop.
- Administering Test Incorrectly: If the officer didn’t follow procedures or was inadequately trained.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can affect the results of sobriety tests.
- Dietary Interferences: Some diets can produce mouth alcohol, which can affect breath test readings.
- Seek Expert Witnesses: Experts can challenge the accuracy and reliability of test results.
Breath and blood tests play a pivotal role in DUI arrests and charges. Understanding your rights and the science behind these tests can mean the difference between a DUI conviction and the dismissal of your DUI case. If you ever find yourself facing DUI charges, it’s crucial to consult a law firm with an experienced DUI lawyer who understands both the science and the law surrounding DUI testing in DUI cases.
Can Using Mouthwash or Breath Sprays Before a Breath Test Lead to a False Positive Due to their Alcohol Content?
Yes, certain mouthwashes and sprays contain alcohol. Using them shortly before a breath test can skew results. However, the machine typically measures deep lung air, so the effect might be temporary. Still, it’s crucial to inform the administering officer if you’ve recently used such products.
I’m on a Ketogenic Diet. Can this Affect my Breath Test Results?
The ketogenic diet leads to the production of acetone, which can be expelled through your breath. Some breath test devices might interpret acetone as ethanol, potentially leading to a false positive. If you’re on such a diet, it’s essential to mention this during testing.
Are There Any Medications Known to Interfere with DUI Testing?
Some medications might contain alcohol or substances that can interfere with breath or blood tests. It’s crucial to inform the officer of any medications you’ve taken and consult with an attorney if you believe medication influenced your test result.