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FAQ About Breathalyzer Testing

Breathalyzer tests are some of the best-known methods of determining whether a person's blood alcohol concentration, BAC, is too high to operate a vehicle safely. However, there are specific rules and laws that apply to the administration, interpretation, routine maintenance, and storage of the Breathalyzer machine. Officers who do not follow these rules/laws for whatever reason are subject to seeing the arrest be ruled illegal, and the charges must normally be dropped against the defendant, even with a confession later.

Keep in mind that different states have their own rules and statutes that govern Breathalyzer testing, and one state may be completely different from the next. Here are some of the most popular questions that people ask along with appropriate answers about Breathalyzer tests:

Do officers have to be trained to use a Breathalyzer machine?

Most states require that officers be initially and periodically trained to operate, interpret, store, and service the machine. This helps establish accuracy and reliability for each test that is administered. If the officer was not trained properly, the machine was not calibrated correctly, or any step in the process was not followed to the letter, then the evidence may be suppressed in court.

Is it against the law to refuse to take the test? What if I know I will fail?

Implied Consent laws are the norm in today's court system, meaning that if you drive, you are implying that you will consent to BAC testing if an officer has reason to believe that you may be driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol. Refusal to consent may carry additional fines/penalties, and/or separate charges.

If I refuse, can I still be sentenced to the state minimum for my offense?

Not likely, although this is generally determined on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if you can prove that you had a medical reason to refuse, then you may still receive the state minimum. This is rare, and most states do not allow a refusal for any reason. However, in some cases it is actually easier to defend a refusal than it is an actual breath test result. The reason is that you have deprived the state of their most damaging evidence against you, which is a BAC result. With that said, you are still required by law to submit to a test and refusal to submit will result in harsh penalties.

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