If an officer has any reason to suspect that you're driving under the influence, he or she may not only ask for a field sobriety assessment, but also a breathalyzer test. Breath tests are a common method for law enforcement to use when evaluating your blood alcohol level. It's important to understand, though, that even if you fail a breath test, it doesn't always mean an automatic DUI conviction. In fact, when you retain a DUI attorney, he or she is likely to ask you a specific series of questions to help determine if you have a solid defense.
How Was the Test Administered?
Before a breath test can be admitted in court, it must be proven that the test was administered properly and according to regulations. For example, before the test can be administered, the officer must have probable cause. This means that he or she must have been observing your behavior for a period of time to formulate that cause. The period of time is subjective, but if your attorney can show that you were administered a breath test without any observation or if the officer had insufficient reason to suspect intoxication, the test may be dismissed.
Did You Pass the Field Test?
If you passed the field test and the officer still demanded a breathalyzer, your attorney may be able to claim that there was insufficient cause for the breath test. This would indicate discrepancies between the test results and your performance in the field test, indicating that you may not have been intoxicated or the breath test was faulty.
Were You Advised of Your Right to a Medical Examination?
In some states, you have the legal right to request an independent blood alcohol test. If the officer doesn't inform you of your rights to this independent exam, your breath test may not be admissible in court.
Were You Informed of the Results?
At the time that the breath test is administered, the officer in question is legally obligated to tell you the results. If the officer doesn't provide you with the results of your breath test on the spot, you may have a legal defense in court. The courts consider this withholding information that you have a legal right to know.
How Long Were You Stopped Before the Test?
In addition to assessing the basic processes and notifications, your attorney may also want to know how much time elapsed between the time you were stopped and the time the test was administered. Since alcohol can be absorbed by your blood stream over time, your attorney may be able to argue that your blood alcohol level wasn't that high when you were stopped and that the prolonged period of time between the traffic stop and the test provided an opportunity for your blood alcohol level to increase beyond the legal limit.
Why Were You Driving?
Sometimes, you can claim a legitimate defense even if you were driving while intoxicated. For example, if you can prove that you were fleeing a more serious situation or you were driving under the influence solely because of another emergency, your DUI attorney may claim extenuating circumstances. For example, a woman fleeing an abuser in the midst of an attack may be able to claim that she was driving under the influence solely in an attempt to preserve her own life. The courts will need prove that the risks you took while driving under the influence were minimal as compared to the potential harm you were facing. This defense can also be used if you were trying to escape a home invasion or if you were carjacked and forced to drive under duress.
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