A breath test allows an officer in Pennsylvania to check a suspected driver for drunk driving. The tests collect a breath sample from the driver to measure blood alcohol content. However, the accuracy is debated, and drivers may challenge the results.
Defenses to breathalyzers
The criminal defense team of someone cited for DUI may challenge the calibration of the instrument by filing a request to access the records. Calibration checks for accuracy, and if the device isn’t tested, the chance of an inaccurate result is higher. The device must also be on the state’s approved list, and the officer needs training on the specific device.
The officer needs reasonable suspicion, or belief that the suspect has committed an infraction, to pull them over. For example, constant swerving or running a stop sign would give an officer reasonable suspicion, not based on a hunch.
Another required element for a DUI case is probable cause, which means collecting evidence of DUI. Evidence is commonly gathered through observing a driver’s behavior and physical appearance, smelling for alcohol and conducting field sobriety tests.
Some medical conditions may skew a breathalyzer, such as diabetes or GERD, which produce acetones, or a substance with alcohol properties. Several everyday products, such as cough syrups, sugarless gum, and foods with yeast, can also produce false positives.
Penalties for refusing breathalyzers
Drivers in Pennsylvania are required to consent to chemical testing under implied consent laws by having a license. While it isn’t illegal to refuse a breathalyzer, the driver faces a 12-month license suspension for the first refusal.
The driver must pay a $500 license reinstatement fee and could be sentenced to rehabilitation or community service. In some cases, the driver doesn’t expressly refuse a test, but the police consider it an implied refusal.
A DUI charge can result in stiff fines, jail time, and license suspension. However, a good defense may be able to find flaws in testing or get charges reduced.