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Breath and Blood Testing

Lawyer for Breath and Blood Testing

A breath test machine is the most common method of determining blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in a suspected drunk driver. In Pennsylvania, a number of different breathalyzer machines are employed by police. The reliability of some of these machines has been called into question in recent years, with the IntoxilyzerEN 5000 - a commonly used model - having been deemed inadequate by a lower court in measuring high rates of alcohol.

The other form of chemical testing is blood testing; however, this is far less common, typically only being employed under special circumstances. Nevertheless, an officer may decide to use blood testing and, given implied consent, an individual is required by law to allow this testing.

Flaws in the underlying technology, medical conditions, and many other factors present before testing can cause faulty readings, and provide a basis for challenging a DUI arrest.

Breath Test

A number of factors must be examined when considering the results of a breath test. First, the test must be performed within 2 hours of the operation of the vehicle. Typically, this means that the individual must be given a breath test within 2 hours of the stop. The purpose of this is simply to try and attain a reasonably accurate result. If the breath test takes longer, there is the risk that the individual's body will process some amount of the alcohol and result in a legal reading. However, the 2-hour rule can be overcome in two situations: (1) the Commonwealth can show good cause for why the test could not be performed within 2 hours, and (2) the Commonwealth can establish that the individual did not consume alcohol or drugs between the time of arrest and testing.

Additionally, the machine must be checked for accuracy at least once every year. This must be documented, and a certificate made available for your attorney as part of discovery. If this proof of certification is not available, or if the machine was not tested, then the breath result may be inadmissible. The officer performing the test must have proof of certification within two years, also available to your attorney.

Any error with the breath test can open the door to your attorney challenging the results, and potentially having the charges dismissed or reduced.

Blood Test

A blood test is typically a last resort, used primarily in situations where the officer has probable cause. For instance, in the case of an accident where the officer has reason to believe a person in a vehicle was drunk, but they require immediate medical treatment, then a blood test will be taken at the hospital. However, Pennsylvania police will use blood testing as a matter of course if necessary. When the IntoxilyzerEN 5000's reliability was deemed suspect by a lower level court in 2013, officers throughout Pennsylvania departments which used this machine began to use blood tests as the norm for suspected DUI offenders, rather than risk using a questioned machine.

Though more accurate than a breath test, there are potential flaws in this process as well. Some labs test the plasma, removing certain parts of blood, therefore falsely raising the BAC by virtue of reducing the total amount of blood. It is also possible for an alcohol solution to be improperly administered prior to taking the blood, thereby contaminating the sample with excess alcohol. Also, some medications can thin the blood, and lead to false results.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

A DUI Lawyer can look to the science behind the testing, and make sure proper procedure was followed and accurate results attained. When mistakes are made, a good lawyer will find them, and fight to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced.

This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.

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