Can I Fight the Results of a Blood or Breathalyzer DUI Test
Fighting the Results of a Blood or Breathalyzer test after a DUI in West Chester PA
For those who find themselves being arrested on DUI charges in the state of Pennsylvania, having a blood, breath or urine test can be particularly intimidating. While the technology has certainly come a long way over the past couple of decades, there still may be mistakes made by the tester, faulty devices, a blood sample which has been compromised or any number of additional things that can go wrong.
Having an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney by your side from start to finish can ensure that any flaws in the process are promptly spotted. When a driver is pulled over on suspicion of DUI, the breathalyzer test is one of the primary ways the suspicions of the police are confirmed.
If you are facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania, we can help. Our team of attorneys have the experience, passion, and consideration to protect your future and your freedom during this difficult legal process. Contact us today at (610) 692-8700, (717) 291-9400 or (877) 529-2422. Our Chester County office is located at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and our Lancaster Office is located at 313 West Liberty Place, Lancaster PA 17603.
Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Laws
Pennsylvania operates under implied consent laws, meaning when an individual obtains a driver’s license in the state, they are implicitly giving their consent to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test upon request when suspected of driving under the influence.
Even so, an individual may still refuse a breath or blood test, however, there are penalties associated with doing so. The first time a breathalyzer is refused, the driver will pay $500; the second refusal will cost $1,000, and each time thereafter will cost $2,000. Further, refusing a breath or blood test will result in the loss of your driver’s license for an additional year on top of any other penalties imposed for your DUI. Even if you are found not guilty of the DUI charges, you could still lose your driver’s license for a year for your refusal. There are many flaws associated with blood and breath tests, including the following:
- Breathalyzer tests have a considerable margin of error, particularly tests using the Intoxilyzer 5000.
- The machine may not have been properly calibrated, or it could have been improperly maintained.
- The police officer administering the test may not have been sufficiently trained to administer the test.
- The protocols for administering a breath test may not have been properly followed.
- The person taking the test could have health problems which alter the results of the breathalyzer test, including asthma, GERD, and acid reflux.
- There is a standard deviation which applies to most chemical breath testing machines which could result in legal grounds for lowering the “tier” of blood alcohol content on which DUI penalties are based.
- A machine with a history of malfunctions could bring the admissibility of the results into question.
- The breathalyzer device does not measure blood alcohol content, it estimates BAC based on the amount of alcohol vapor on a person’s breath.
- Individual differences in body composition and size can make a difference in the breathalyzer results.
- The person taking the breath tests is taking certain medications which interfere with the results.
- The person taking the breath test is ill with the flu, causing the test results to be altered.
- Hyperventilating, differences between deep and shallow breathing, and the temperature of the breath can alter the results of the breathalyzer test.
- The breathalyzer may have been too near to radio wave-emitting equipment.
- The police officer is required to watch the suspect for at least fifteen minutes prior to administration of the breathalyzer test; if a burp, belch or hiccup is observed, another fifteen to twenty-minute time period must be observed prior to administration of the test.
- Those who are routinely exposed to lacquer, paint, gasoline or dry-cleaning fluids, such as carpenters or plumbers, can find the results of the breathalyzer inaccurate.
- A low-carbohydrate diet (like the Keto diet) can create acetone in the breath, leading to a false breathalyzer reading.
- A breathalyzer machine can malfunction, reading the alcohol levels in the mouth rather than from the lungs.
- The outside temperature and even the atmospheric pressure can alter the reliability of the breathalyzer test.
- Women process alcohol in a different way than men, perhaps resulting in skewed results.
- The presence of mouth appliances can sometimes alter the results of the breath test.
So, if absolutely everything is done right—the suspect has no health problems or other issues which could alter the results, the machine is perfectly calibrated, and the tester administers the test perfectly—the results of the breathalyzer machine could be relatively correct. There are so many variables which can alter the results of the test, that an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney can often challenge the results of the test.
- The blood sample could have been contaminated after collection.
- The blood sample could have been incorrectly obtained.
- The blood sample sat too long before being tested.
- The blood sample could have been inadvertently switched with another blood sample.
- The results of the blood test were misinterpreted.
- Fermentation could occur, causing the sample to produce alcohol inside the blood vial.
- Too many people may have handled the blood sample, resulting in contamination.
- The blood may have been taken more than two hours (stipulated by Pennsylvania law) after the DUI arrest.
Search Warrant Usually Necessary for Blood Test
A 2013 Supreme Court case ruling concluded that police needed to obtain a search warrant prior to taking a blood test from a suspect to measure blood alcohol level. The impact of this decision is currently being discussed in Pennsylvania courts. As the laws stand now, blood can only be taken without your consent in certain emergency situations.
Urine Tests Largely Considered Unreliable
Urine tests are considered the least reliable chemical testing method; if you failed to empty your bladder 20 minutes prior to producing the sample, if you were not given a clean cup for the sample, if the sample was not properly labeled or stored or if you were not given sufficient privacy while giving the sample, the results of a urine test can be challenged.
Fighting the Results of Blood and Breathalyzer Tests
Your attorney can fight blood and breath test results for DUI charges of alcohol or marijuana, using legal motions, objections, and arguments to have the results of the test dismissed. There are different defenses with each individual arrest to have BAC evidence tossed, blood draw cases dismissed, or the charges reduced. Even when no blood or breath evidence is present, prosecutors may still be able to prove impaired driving. The police officer who made the arrest can relay his or her observations regarding the driver’s impairment, and if the officer is a credible witness, a Pennsylvania resident could potentially be convicted of DUI without a BAC over the legal limit.
First-Time Offenders May Find No Benefit in Fighting Breath or Blood Results
Many Pennsylvania first-time DUI cases end up in diversionary programs such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), which allows the first-time offender to avoid a criminal record. There is also the Alternate Sentencing Program for second-time DUI offenders, permitting the offender to serve a portion of their jail time on house arrest.
What About Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are used as a part of the police officer’s DUI investigation to determine whether or not a driver is impaired. The only tests required under Pennsylvania law are breath, blood, or urine tests; you cannot be prosecuted in the state for refusing a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are completely subjective by nature, rather than scientific. Since the officer has probably already determined you are under the influence when he or she administers the field sobriety test, it is almost certain that you will fail, giving the officer probable cause to arrest you and administer a breath test.
The three field sobriety tests which received the NHTSA’s stamp of approval have been found to be from 30 percent and more inaccurate. which have received the NHTSA’s stamp of approval have been found to be as much as 30% inaccurate. The goal of these field sobriety tests is to test a person’s agility, coordination, and whether or not they can follow instructions and perform the tests simultaneously. It is assumed that these skills are necessary when operating a motor vehicle and that only a sober person will be able to pass the tests.
Because of the wide margin of error, however, a field sobriety test may wrongly be used to convict someone of a DUI. If you have any sort of physical disability, if you are over the age of 65, or if you are significantly overweight, then the officer should not require you to take the tests. The officer should also take careful note of the weather and terrain. If you would be required to walk on particularly rocky ground, ground that is uneven or goes uphill, or if the weather has dictated conditions which could alter your results on the field sobriety tests, then the tests should not be administered. Icy roads, wet road, or any other type of inclement weather would also prohibit the tests being given.
Our Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Are There When You Need Us
If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI in Pennsylvania, it is important to fight these charges aggressively. At Ciccarelli Law Offices, our Pennsylvania DUI attorneys are here to help you following your DUI charges.
We have successfully defended citizens throughout Pennsylvania who have been arrested and accused of DUI. We have tried cases in the Chester County courts as well as in Exton, Kennett Square, Coatesville, Malvern, Chesterbrook, Phoenixville, Oxford, Honey Brook, Parkesburg, West Chester, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Paoli, and Philadelphia.